Many questions remain publicly unanswered related to tragedy in the aisles of Walmart last week. Two customers died and two longtime Beavercreek police officers were placed on paid leave.
With limited information, a lot of people have jumped to conclusions.
Let’s start with the facts that no one can dispute: John Crawford III of Fairfield, a 22-year-old father of two, and Angela Williams of Fairborn, a 37-year-old mother of 4, are dead.
According to Beavercreek police Chief Dennis Evers, Crawford was killed by police after failing to comply with the command of officers. At Evers’ request, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is investigating the case.
Set to be married last weekend, Williams and her 9-year-old daughter were at Walmart last Tuesday when shots rang out.
The nursing home nurse collapsed while running away from danger inside the store. She was later pronounced dead at nearby Soin Medical Center.
The Attorney General’s office says Crawford was carrying an opened Crosman BB gun air rifle sold at the Walmart when police shot him.
While many are awaiting the results of the AG’s investigation before drawing conclusion, others are filling in the blanks.
Some think this is an open-and-shut case of police shooting a man who appeared to be a dangerous gunman.
Some suspect Crawford’s death was unjustified and the result of shoddy police work or, worse, racial stereotyping.
Such conclusions can lead a community down a divided and dangerous path paved with racial and social mistrust.
Here are some of the questions that remain unanswered:
- What does the video of John Crawford’s behavior at the North Fairfield Road store show? Walmart is well known for its security.
- Did Crawford’s race influence the perception of his actions before he was shot or after police arrived?
- Was Walmart security concerned about his actions before police arrived?
- Could shoppers have been evacuated sooner? If so, why weren’t they?
- What was Crawford doing with that BB gun before he was confronted by Beavercreek police officers Sean Williams and David Darkow?
- 911 caller Ronald Ritchie of Riverside perceived Crawford’s behavior as threatening. Did other people in the store feel threatened? Ritchie told my colleagues that he followed Crawford at “a safe distance” and called 911, witnessing him wave the weapon at children, adults and things. LeeCee Johnson, the mother of Crawford’s children, said Crawford was talking to her on his cell phone when the deadly shots rang out. She says she heard Crawford say the gun wasn’t real.
- Did Crawford have a chance to comply with the officers’ commands before shots were fired?
- Who pulled the trigger? Was it Sgt. Darkow or officer Williams? On Aug. 30, 2010, a nine-member Greene County Court of Common Pleas grand jury determined Williams acted correctly and in self-defense when he killed retired Air Force Master Sgt. Scott A. Brogli during a domestic violence investigation. It was the only other time an officer has killed a suspect in Beavercreek’s history.
- Was there some way for these officers to discern the difference between a BB gun and a real rifle?
It is doubtful John Crawford or Angela Williams imagined dying during a trip to the Beavercreek Walmart. It is equally doubtful that David Darkow or Sean Williams ever imagined being involved in a deadly shooting there.
This is a tragedy that will certainly haunt a community. Answering these questions won’t change the facts that can’t be disputed, but they will help make sense of something that seems so senseless.
Hopefully, answers can help mend the divide before it deepens.