When Ronald Ritchie called 911 from the aisles of a Walmart in western Ohio last month to report that a black man was “walking around with a gun in the store”, he said that shoppers were coming under direct threat. “He’s, like, pointing it at people,”
Ritchie told the dispatcher. Later that evening, after John Crawford III had been shot dead by one of the police officers who hurried to the scene in Beavercreek, Ritchie repeated to reporters:
“He was pointing at people. Children walking by.”
One month later, Ritchie puts it differently. “At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody,” the 24-year-old said, in an interview with the Guardian.
He maintained that Crawford was “waving it around”, which attorneys for Crawford’s family deny.
Ritchie told several reporters after the 5 August shooting that he was an “ex-marine”. When confronted with his seven-week service record, however, he confirmed that he had been quickly thrown out of the US marine corps in 2008 after being declared a “fraudulent enlistment”, over what he maintains was simply a mixup over his paperwork.
Crawford, 22, turned out to be holding an unloaded BB air rifle that he had picked up from a store shelf. After Ritchie said Crawford appeared to be “trying to load” the gun, the 911 dispatcher relayed to an officer that it was believed the gunman “just put some bullets inside”.
The Crawfords’ attorneys told the Guardian that they had learned the preliminary findings of an autopsy were that he was shot in the back of his left arm and in his left side, supporting their claim that he was turned away from the police officer who shot him.
They have pleaded with Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, to release the store’s surveillance footage of the shooting to the public. Having viewed it, they say that it disproves Ritchie’s version of what led to the deaths of both Crawford and a 37-year-old woman who collapsed and died in the ensuing panic.
“It was an execution, no doubt about it,” alleged Crawford’s father, John Crawford II. “It was flat-out murder. And when you see the footage, it will illustrate that.”
DeWine has said that releasing the footage would be “playing with dynamite” and prevent any trial from being fair
The attorneys said that they would also be lodging a complaint with DeWine after Ritchie told the Guardian that he, too, was shown the surveillance footage by officials in the attorney general’s bureau of criminal investigation, who are investigating the shooting.
From this point, the Crawford team’s description of what is shown in the surveillance footage differs radically from Ritchie’s recollection, which he insisted was also backed up by the recordings from the Walmart cameras.
Crawford’s father and attorneys said that the footage showed the 22-year-old walking from one aisle to the next with the BB rifle at his side and in his left hand, pointed at the floor except for one notable movement.
“I would think that the rifle maybe got heavy to him,” said his father. “He kind of swung it like you carry it on your shoulder, then he immediately put it back down.” “You can clearly see people walk past him, and they didn’t think anything about it.
Everybody was just kind of minding their own business,” his father added. “He wasn’t acting in any type of way that he would have been considered menacing, if you will.