Most, if not all, of us know about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri, at this point. But not many people are talking about John Crawford of Beavercreek, Ohio, who was recently gunned down in a local Wal-Mart while talking to his wife on the phone.
And lest anyone try to paint what happened to Brown and Trayvon Martin as isolated incidents, and not reflective of a larger pattern, we need to talk about it.
Crawford, age 22, was shot to death in the middle of the store by two white officers. Initial reports depicted Crawford as a menacing figure, who was waving a gun at other customers, and who ignored multiple orders from police to drop the weapon. Since then, eyewitness reports and security tape collected from the store's cameras tells a different picture.
Yes, Crawford, father to two young children, did have something in his hand, but it wasn't a rifle or a shotgun. Rather, it was a toy BB gun he had picked up from the shelves in the store to buy.
From all accounts, it sounds a lot like the one my parents bought for me when I was about 9 or 10 years old.
The initial call to 9-1-1 by a customer indicated that Crawford was pointing the gun at customers. However, the statements taken since then from other customers, and the tapes reviewed by law enforcement officials, do not support this claim.
The Beavercreek police chief claimed, immediately following the fatal shooting, that the officers had acted appropriately. More specifically, he says that they did what needed to be done in order to contain the situation, and to ensure the safety of other customers.
However, nothing in the security tapes suggests Crawford even heard the police order him to surrender the toy gun. It appears, according to the Crawford family's lawyer, who has been given access to the tapes, that Crawford was never even aware the police were there, as he continued casually to speak on the phone until he was shot. The attorney also argues that there is no evidence on the tapes that the police gave any indication at all to Crawford to surrender, lay down the weapon or otherwise, before killing him.
Incidentally, Crawford's family requested access to the security tapes following his death, but their request was denied for more than a month, under the pretense that letting them see the evidence would impact the investigation.
It's also worth noting that, since the man who called 9-1-1 has also been shown the security tapes, he recanted his claim made during the emergency response call that Crawford had ever threatened anyone in the store with the BB gun.