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No indictments after police shoot and kill man at an Ohio Wal-Mart; Justice Dept. launches investigation

A rally supporting Crawford’s family. (Ty Greenlees/Dayton Daily News via AP)
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A grand jury in Ohio decided Wednesday not to indict any police officers for the shooting of John Crawford III, who was killed by police at a Wal-Mart in the state last month. Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced Wednesday that it would conduct an independent civil rights review into Crawford’s death.

Crawford was killed at a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton. on Aug. 5. Police said that Crawford was killed after not listening to police orders to drop an air rifle, which can be used to fire pellets or BBs. In addition, someone called 911 and said Crawford was waving the air rifle at people.

However, attorneys for Crawford’s family said surveillance video showed that he was only holding the air rifle, not waving it around. And a man who called 911 told the Guardian earlier this month that Crawford never shouldered the rifle or pointed it at anyone, although he did say that Crawford was “waving it around.”

Last month, Mark E. Piepmeier, an attorney with the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, was appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate this shooting. Investigators conducted dozens of interviews, reviewed reams of documents and looked through video footage captured by cameras.

Grand jury proceedings began Monday. Two days later, Piepmeier announced that the grand jury did not indict anyone and believed that the officers were justified in their actions.

“The Wal-Mart surveillance video and eyewitnesses prove that the killing of John H. Crawford III was not justified and was not reasonable,” Crawford’s family said in a statement (via the Cincinnati Enquirer). “It is undisputed that John Crawford III was in Wal-Mart as a customer and was not posing a threat to anyone in the store, especially the police officers.”

The Justice Department said Wednesday it would “conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances” around Crawford’s death to see if there were any civil rights violations. This review will be conducted by the department’s civil rights division, the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI.

After the grand jury’s decision was announced, Gov. John Kasich (R) and Ohio Attoreny General Mike DeWine (R) both issued statements on Wednesday calling for the Justice Department to look into the issue.

“After talking with the Attorney General and watching the video myself, I agree with his decision that a review by the U.S. Department of Justice is appropriate,” Kasich said in a statement. “This is a tragedy for the Crawford family and I share the concern of many in the community that this matter must be handled with the utmost seriousness and respect.”

DeWine’s office said the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation had “been in frequent contact” with the FBI and said it would turn over any requested files relating to the investigation.

Crawford’s death did not attract as much national attention as the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri or Eric Garner in New York. But all three had something in common: Crawford, Brown and Garner were all black men who died after encounters with police, with these situations drawing increased scrutiny to the way police officers use force.

“We are saddened and outraged by the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict these officers that acted maliciously and carelessly when they killed John Crawford III,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of the group, said in a statement.

This post has been updated to add the family’s statement and Robinson’s statement. Last update: 6:14 p.m.