Beavercreek police Sgt. David Darkow didn’t pull his trigger when he and officer Sean Williams confronted John Crawford III in Walmart on Aug. 5, 2014.
But Darkow testified that, given the information from lone 911 caller Ronald Ritchie, he or Williams could have shot Crawford on site without any instructions to drop the weapon or identifying themselves as police officers. Neither realized Crawford, a 22-year-old from Fairfield, was on his phone, according to the depositions.
The depositions of Darkow, Williams, Ritchie and Ritchie’s wife were obtained by the Dayton Daily News from the Crawford family attorneys, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Beavercreek and Walmart in late 2014. The city and Walmart have denied claims in the lawsuit.
Williams testified that he shot Crawford because he “was about to” point a weapon at him while holding a rifle in a “low ready” position.
Darkow said the information from Ritchie and Beavercreek’s training meant he didn’t have to give any verbal instructions or wait for any response before firing a weapon.
The Crawford family attorneys have estimated that Crawford — who was on his cell phone — had between a third and a half of a second to hear, understand and react to any commands to drop the BB/pellet rifle he picked up from an opened box in the store.
One exchange of questions from plaintiff’s attorney Dennis Mulvihill and answers from Darkow illustrate the Beavercreek sergeant’s mindset:
Q. So if someone is holding a gun and you give them a command that they don’t have time to respond to, it’s OK to shoot them before they have time to respond?
Q. Do you have any remorse at all that John Crawford is dead?
(Defense attorney objected to the question)
A. I think it’s a tragedy. Absolutely.
Q. Well, that’s different than having remorse. Do you have any remorse?
A. Yeah, you’re right. It is different. I don’t really — I don’t feel remorseful. I think it’s a tragedy that should not have occurred. Absolutely.
Q. Why did you give John a command if you were justified in shooting without?
A. Because that was my instinct. I can’t explain that. I think we were justified to do what we did. We were justified to shoot him without commands, based on our training. Based on our training, we believed that we were headed into an active threat, a potential active shooter situation. We believed that this person was loading an assault rifle, pointing it at people, and had every intention of shooting up Walmart, and we believed that it was our job to go and eliminate that threat.
Attorneys for Walmart and for Beavercreek and its officers have not responded to messages seeking comment on the depositions or the case. The company and the city have denied liability in the wrongful death lawsuit.
A Greene County special grand jury cleared Williams of any criminal wrongdoing in September 2014. A federal investigation finished last summer with U.S. Dept. of Justice officials saying the probe “revealed that the evidence is insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Officer Williams violated federal civil rights laws.”
The civil lawsuit is ongoing in Dayton’s U.S. District Court. The trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 5.