DAYTON — A white Ohio police officer who fatally shot a black man in a Walmart store says he believed he faced an “imminent threat,” although he acknowledges he never saw the man point what turned out to be an air rifle or threaten anyone.
Beavercreek officer police officer Sean Williams made his statements during a deposition in a federal lawsuit filed by the family of John Crawford III. Crawford, 22, was killed Aug. 5, 2014, after police responded to a 911 call about someone waving a rifle in a store in Beavercreek, a Dayton suburb.
The Dayton Daily News reports in Thursday editions that depositions show police relied on the lone 911 caller, who said a man had a rifle.
The civil case is scheduled for trial next month. Crawford’s relatives sued Beavercreek police and Arkansas-based Walmart, alleging negligence and civil rights violations. Police and Walmart have denied the allegations.
The killing of Crawford is among a series of fatal police shootings of black men across the United States that have raised attention during the last four years to how police deal with black people. A special grand jury and then a federal investigation concluded without any charges in Crawford’s death.
Officer Williams and police Sgt. David Darkow have said Crawford refused to respond to commands. The Daily News says both officers said during their civil depositions that they didn’t realize Crawford was talking on his cellphone and didn’t know if he heard their commands.
Williams said he didn’t observe anyone running, screaming or in pain and didn’t hear or smell gunfire. But he and Darkow both said there was a perceived threat.
“When I first observed John Crawford … he had a rifle in hand about to raise it up,” Williams said. “He had it in a low ready position and he was turning toward us with the rifle, which, at the very least, is an imminent threat to me, which is why I fired the rounds.”
Crawford family attorneys Michael Wright and Dennis Mulvihill said the officers’ depositions have made it “even more clear to the Crawford family that John never should have been shot and killed.”