Police Abuse

DOJ Declines to Press Charges Against Cop Who Shot and Killed Man at Walmart

Nearly three years after a grand jury declined to indict

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The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio have announced that they won't be pressing federal charges against Officer Sean Williams. Williams shot and killed John Crawford III at an Ohio Walmart in August 2014.

The case illustrates the importance of reducing employment privileges that keep bad police officers on the job, and of encouraging disciplinary protocols that can identify problem cops before they kill. Williams led his department in the use of force—in eight years at the Beavercreek Police Department, he used force at 10 times the department's average rate.

The story began when a customer saw Crawford holding a pellet rifle he had picked up from a shelf while talking on his cellphone. The customer called 911, and Williams responded. Surveillance video released after a grand jury declined to indict Williams shows the officer firing at Crawford moments after arriving on the scene. Police claimed they ordered Crawford to drop his weapon but, as Reason's Robby Soave reported at the time, "the video footage proves definitively that that was not the case—the cops shot the man almost immediately after encountering him."

The grand jury made its decision not to indict Williams in September 2014. The Department of Justice (DOJ) then announced it would open its own investigation.

Nearly three years later, the DOJ has decided it cannot press charges against Crawford because "the government would be required both to disprove his stated reason for the shooting—that he was in fear of death or serious bodily injury—and to affirmatively establish that…Williams instead acted with the specific intent to violate…Crawford's rights."

The DOJ press release says its prosecutors did not have the evidence to accomplish that.

"This is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law," the release reads. "Mistake, misperception, negligence, necessity, or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation."

The DOJ insists it completed a thorough investigation before arriving at its decision.

"The investigation was conducted by career investigators and prosecutors, and included a review of voluminous materials, including the investigative reports generated by the Beavercreek Police Department and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation; forensic evidence reports; the autopsy report; photographs of the crime scene; toxicology reports; and EMS reports," the release says. "Prosecutors also obtained assistance from an independent crime scene reconstruction expert to aid in understanding the exact perspectives held by the officers who confronted…Crawford. In addition, the FBI conducted its own interviews of relevant witnesses, including interviews with personnel at the Beavercreek Police Department who were responsible for training [Williams]."

Williams went on desk duty after the shooting, but is expected to return to the streets now that the federal investigation has concluded.

The city of Beavercreek has already spent more than $400,000 on the legal defense for Williams and Sgt. David Darkow, who was also present during the incident but did not fire at Williams. The figure does not include the cost of the police union lawyer. The city has subsequently joined the Professional Law Enforcement Association, described by the Dayton Daily News as "like an insurance company for [police] legal defense."

A lawsuit by the family over the shooting is still pending.

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  1. Nearly three years later, the DOJ has decided it cannot press charges against Williams because “the government would be required both to disprove his stated reason for the shooting?that he was in fear of death or serious bodily injury?and to affirmatively establish that…Williams instead acted with the specific intent to violate…Crawford’s rights.”

    “Your honor the defense would like to enter Exhibit A into evidence: Officer Williams’ shit-stained pants from the day in question.

  2. Jeebus this dude died because nosy customer?

    1. Lying customer.

  3. BEST N*T PUNCH EVAH!

    1. The original story was the nut punch. “Deprivation of civil rights”? Come on, like the cop had something against this guy? No, it doesn’t bother me at all that the USDOJ would pursue this charge; if anything, the revers would.

      Negligent homicide, yeah, that’d make sense. But not some federal charge that’s meant to apply to lynchings & so forth.

  4. A lawsuit by the family over the shooting is still pending.

    Justice will have its day?

    1. Black men now have a four ways to take care of their families:
      1. entertainment
      2. pro sports
      3. sell drugs/pimp
      3. wrongful death lawsuits

  5. Williams…is expected to return to the streets now that the federal investigation has concluded.

    Red Ryder owners, beware!

    1. Williams will shoot your eye out.

  6. Truth of the matter is that the officer would have been fired and run out of law compliance enforcement if he had not shot the guy.

    Any threat, real or perceived, must be met with deadly force. They are trained to open fire at the sight of guns, knives, dogs, remote controls, wallets, and anything else that makes them fear for their lives.

    Failure to obey must also be met with deadly force because that itself a deadly threat.

    That’s why nothing ever happens. Everyone involved knows it. It’s just a show for the peasants. But every cop would have done the exact same thing, if they wanted to keep their job.

    1. There was no “failure to obey” in this case. Crawford was shot on sight.

  7. RE: DOJ Declines to Press Charges Against Cop Who Shot and Killed Man at Walmart
    Nearly three years after a grand jury declined to indict

    “This is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law,” the release reads. “Mistake, misperception, negligence, necessity, or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.”

    Then WTF does constitute a federal criminal civil rights violation?

    1. It’s all about the intent to these people. It doesn’t matter how negligent or how much lack of judgement is shown, if the intent is “fear for his life,” and not he intended to violate his civil rights, they won’t act, no matter how egregious.

      1. Meanwhile intent no longer matters when peasants are accused of crimes.

    2. Then WTF does constitute a federal criminal civil rights violation?

      Lynchings. Cases where the local gov’t is prejudiced vs. somebody, & feds are the only recourse.

  8. Every business in Beavercreek should file a no-trespass order against Sean Williams the day he returns to active duty.

  9. Hi. This is my first post on Reason. I’m posting because this my home. And this situation is straight BS.

    First … Reason, where in the linked article you’ve provided does it say that Sean is returning to patrol? Nothing in the link says that. Sean has been on desk duty since this incident. We’re under the impression here that is where he is staying, at least until the civil case is resolved. I do not want this guy back on patrol. I’ve already decided if I’m being pulled over by a BC cop, I’m calling into 911 to make sure its not Sean before I stop.

    1. Second, I have my own theory on why this went nowhere.

      I knew in fall of 2014 nobody would prosecute when our AG had his Special Prosecutor’s grand jury press conference (link below). When the SP did his press conference, he threw up a FBI PowerPoint on how to handle an “active shooter”. He went on & on & on about how BC police were literally just trained on it and it seemed pretty obvious to me the AG was using the FBI training as an “excuse”. The slides pretty much said shoot on sight. It was then I knew nothing would happen, ever. The likely defense Sean would use if he was tried, would be that he was only doing what he was “trained to do”, he would place blame on the training, and ultimately the FBI. That would put the spotlight on the feds, our Constitution/BoR & militarized police forces as well as essentially shift all liability onto the feds. This would of course make us scrutinize other police departments to see if they too had this FBI training before they killed others like Crawford. For the feds to prosecute Sean, they’d ultimately would be prosecuting themselves. Hence, no charges. Par for the course. We let them investigate themselves and act surprised when they find no wrongdoing.

      They’re not prosecuting because it goes all the way to the top & they know if they let the defense say it was the “training” this thing would blow up in all their faces. It’s sickening.

      1. Link to full press conference, all the details are here

        http://wdtn.com/2014/09/24/vid…..-entirety/

  10. Do WalmartOne Associate login to know the best information about Walmart.

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