BEAVERCREEK, OHIO--[WHIO] A man carrying an air rifle in a Wal-Mart told officers that the gun was "not real" before police fatally shot him, according to a family member.
On Tuesday evening, John Crawford was shot by police at a Beavercreek Store. The Ohio attorney general's office announced Thursday that he was only carrying a specific brand of an air rifle sold by the local Wal-Mart.
Another shopper that was there—37-year-old Angela Williams—collapsed and died as she scrambled to get away after police fired at Crawford.
Police responded to a 911 call about a man carrying a rifle. In one of those calls released by police, a shopper told dispatchers that it looked like Crawford was trying to load the rifle and that he pointed it at two children.
The 911 caller's wife said that Crawford was on the phone and that he was playing with the gun. She said after police ordered Crawford to put down the weapon, "I heard two shots after I saw him turn. He still had the weapon in his hand."
Crawford's family say that there is no way he intended to harm anyone that night.
Crawford was there to quickly pick up some supplies and return back to an outdoor family function.
LeeCee Johnson—the mother of Crawford's two children and is pregnant with the third—was on the phone with him at the time of the incident.
She told WHIO that Crawford told officers that the gun he was carrying was "not real."
"We was just talking," said Johnson. "He said he was at the video games [section] playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were."
"And the next thing I know, he said 'It's not real,' and the police start shooting and they said 'Get on the ground,' but he was already on the ground because they had shot him."
The weapon was an MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/Pellet Rifle, manufactured by Crosman. It is known as a "variable pump air rifle."
This is the timeline of the events as they happened:
12:10 p.m.: Funeral for Williams announced
Viewing and memorial service for Angela Williams is Monday from 5-8 p.m. at the Belton-Stroup Funeral Home on Dayton Yellow Springs Road in Fairborn. Funeral will be Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the same place.
Williams died after collapsing during the shooting incident inside the Beavercreek Walmart. Williams was set to get married this weekend.
UPDATE: 11:58 a.m.: Crawford's friend speaks out about shooting
Bobbie Odneal of Cincinnati had known John Crawford for seven years. He saw his friend just hours before he died on Thursday.
"That's my best friend. He was just literally at my house … the only thing I have of him is his hoodie. I just gave him his ID, and I'm waking up hearing his dead."
Odneal very much wants to see video of the Wal-Mart shooting so he can see what happened, because he can't believe Crawford would be in a confrontation with police. He's suspicious that video has not been released yet, because he had another friend, Darnell Johnson, who was killed by the Cincinnati police only this past Monday. The video of that incident was released right away, he said.
"This is unreal, why they ain't showing this video. I just want someone to back this up." Odneal said. He can understand what happened with Johnson because the video shows he ran from the police.
He said Crawford was originally from Cincinnati and was living with his mother at an apartment in Fairfield. He was originally from the Fairmount area.
"I knew his cousins, and then I met him, and we've just been boys ever since. We never stopped chilling with each other. Whatever he's got, I've got, and whatever I've got, he's got. We're close like that. He's my bro."
Crawford had slept at Odneal's residence on Tuesday, the day of the shooting.
"That's all I've got of him. That's all I've got of him is him waking up about to go home. That's it. And the next day they kill him."
Tuesday through Wednesday night
The Ohio Attorney General's office is leading an investigation into Tuesday's night police officer-involved shooting at the Beavercreek Walmart that left one man dead and apparently caused a woman who was running from the scene to collapse and die.
In the hours after the shooting numerous questions remain unanswered, including whether the man shot — 22-year-old John Crawford III of Fairfield — was armed with a real gun when a Beavercreek police officer killed him.
A witness called 911 and said Crawford was waving a rifle in store, including around children, before police officers were summoned. But authorities have not confirmed whether Crawford was armed with a real weapon, and his girlfriend says he was unarmed when she dropped him off at the store minutes before the shooting.
"He did not have any type of gun on him," said Tasha Thomas of Fairborn, who said she picked Crawford up at a Cincinnati outlet mall and drove him to Walmart.
Attorney General's Office spokeswoman Jill Del Greco said BCI would not release information about whether the rifle was real or a toy, citing that it was part of the investigation. She also would not disclose which officer fired the shots that killed Crawford.
Beavercreek police Chief Dennis Evers refused to answer questions during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, Evers read a prepared statement and said that officers Sean Williams and David Darkow likely acted appropriately when one of them shot Crawford. He died shortly after being transported to Dayton's Miami Valley Hospital.
"The officers gave verbal commands to the subject to drop the weapon," Evers said. "The subject … was shot after failing to comply with the officers' commands. The quick response of officers was instrumental in containing this situation and minimizing the risk to customers."
During the incident, customer Angela D. Williams, 37, of Fairborn, suffered a medical emergency while exiting Walmart and died a short time later at Beavercreek's Soin Medical Center. Williams' co-workers at Villa Springfield nursing home said Williams was going to get married on Saturday.
Evers said Crawford received first-aid from police officers at the scene before Beavercreek Twp. Fire Dept. medics transported him to the hospital.
Evers said he asked Attorney General Mike DeWine's office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification to investigate the shooting, and he deferred all questions to the AG's office.
"We've been asked to do this many times," DeWine said. "We have very good investigators at BCI and what we'll be trying to determine is exactly what happened. We're going to interview every witness that we can find."
Thomas and the mother of Crawford's two children disputed that Crawford entered the store with any real weapon or that he would have time to comply with officers' orders to drop one.
A check of the Beavercreek Walmart on Wednesday showed it doesn't have toy guns in the toy section, but does have real guns in glass cases and realistic-looking BB guns in the sporting goods section, including one BB gun box that was open.
LeeCee Johnson, of Fairfield, said she's the mother of Crawford's two children and that she was on the phone with Crawford when the incident occurred. She said she heard Crawford say "it's not real" and officers start shooting and then yell at Crawford to get down.
"I could hear him just crying and screaming," Johnson said. "I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human. First of all, they used a rifle. They could have Tazed him, or … just used the handgun, not something so powerful or forceful like he was an animal or something."
Thomas said Crawford went into the store to purchase supplies to make s'mores.
One 911 call released by Beavercreek police was from Ronald Ritchie of Riverside, who was inside Walmart. He told dispatchers at 8:21 p.m. Tuesday that he saw a man "walking around with a gun in the store."
Ritchie, an ex-Marine, said the man was pointing a black rifle at people near the pet section and that "he's loading it right now." Later, he said, "He looked like he was trying to load it, I don't know." He then added, "He just pointed it at two children."
Later, a person on the call can be heard yelling that he'd been shot.
Ritchie's wife, April, told this newspaper on Wednesday that Crawford was on his cell phone and that people looked at him with disbelief as he held the rifle. The Ritchies said that some scurried in different directions and that three people went into a stock room.
April Ritchie said Crawford held his phone between his left ear and shoulder while moving the rifle around. "He just kept messing with it and I heard it clicking," she said
Crawford was in the pets department when the police arrived, Ronald Ritchie said.
"We moved up to get a closer view, which is not a good idea, but it happened," he said. "We were hiding behind an aisle.
After police arrived, April Ritchie said she heard officers warn Crawford. "I heard, put it down, put it down," she said. "I heard two shots after I saw him turn. He still had the weapon in his hand."
The Ritchies said the man with the rifle fell backwards when he was struck by the gunshots. But, he got back up and went towards the officer who shot him. That officer then tackled the man with the rifle to the ground.
"He looked like he was going to go violently," Ronald Ritchie said. "If he would have dropped the weapon, he could have came out with his life. But, unfortunately, he didn't."
Darkow has been with Beavercreek police since July 18, 1997 while Williams has been with the department since March 4, 2005. Both are on paid administrative leave. "Preliminary indications are the officers acted appropriately under the circumstances," Evers said.
Williams shot and killed a suspect in 2010 in what was found to be a legitimate use of force when a man charged Williams with a knife.
"We are deeply saddened about the loss of life (Tuesday) night and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of everyone involved," said Walmart national spokesman Brian Nick, adding that Walmart's policies on guns in stores match the local and state laws in each location. "We are still learning information about the events surrounding this tragedy and assisting police in their ongoing investigation."
The state now leads the investigation.
"BCI is going to look at the entire situation and look at what happened and what led up to the incident and how the officers responded," Del Greco said. "We will not make determination if the shooting was justified or not."
Instead, Del Greco said a report would be given to the Greene County Prosecutor's Office, which may present the findings to a grand jury to determine if the officers acted properly or criminally. Del Greco said Crawford's toxicology results may take weeks and the investigation may take several months.
Fairborn's Trenton Story entered the Walmart store just before 11 a.m. Wednesday when police tape was removed and said the mood inside was surreal.
"It's sad that this person was shot, but at the end of the day, the police officer has a duty to protect the people of the community and protect themselves," Story said. "Some people may say maybe the police officer shouldn't have done that, but for those people who weren't there at that very moment, you can't make that determination."
Beavercreek police are asking anyone with information or who may have witnessed the events leading up to the incident to contact Capt. Eric Grile at 937-426-1225.