About 40 people, some armed with guns, protested outside the Beavercreek Walmart Saturday afternoon in a rally for their right to openly carry guns and to show solidarity with the family of the man killed by Beavercreek police in the store Aug. 5.
Some of the protesters wore masks and many carried rifles or handguns. It is legal in Ohio to openly carry loaded weapons.
Organizer Virgil Vaduva of Ohio Open Carry said the rally was designed to make people aware of their legal right to openly carry firearms and to draw attention to the Aug. 5 killing of John Crawford III, 22, who was carrying a bb/pellet gun he picked up from a shelf inside the store.
Beavercreek Police Officer Sean Williams, responding to a 9-1-1 call about a man carrying a gun, shot Crawford to death. A Greene County grand jury declined to indict anyone and the federal justice department is investigating.
“This grand jury, the message they sent out is basically that police officers can kill innocent people with impunity and get away with it,” said Vaduva, who carried a loaded P-90 firearm.
“The grand jury got it wrong,” said Rob Jones, 48, of Dayton, who taped a “WANTED” poster featuring Williams on a pole where protesters stood.
“I’m here to protest the illegal killing of an innocent,” said Rick Freehoff, 29, of Franklin, who carried an AK-47.
A Beavercreek Police spokesman could not be reached for comment.
After about two hours outside some of the protesters went inside the Walmart with their guns and roamed through the store shopping and talking. Walmart has no prohibition on bringing weapons inside.
An onsite representative of a public relations firm hired by Walmart directed questions to the company’s corporate media line but no one responded by press time. The store had extra staff on duty at the doors during the rally and stationed throughout the store.
Wanda Miller and her 9-year-old grandson passed by Matt Raska, 24, as he looked at music CDs carrying his 1944 Mosin Nagant rifle. Miller, 51, of Dayton, said it didn’t worry her except for thinking, “I hope there isn’t another thing going on here.”
Raska, of Springfield, said he attended the rally because he wanted to draw attention to the death of Crawford and he came inside the store with his gun because he wants people to become more comfortable around weapons.