CINCINNATI – Federal authorities announced on Tuesday they have ended their investigation of the fatal police shooting of a black man in a Walmart store, concluding there wasn't enough evidence to charge the white officer who killed him.
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The officer shot John Crawford III on Aug. 5, 2014, after police responded to an emergency call about someone waving a rifle in a store in Beavercreek, a Dayton suburb. Police said Crawford, who was 22, didn't obey commands to drop what they learned later was an air rifle he was carrying from a store shelf.
A special grand jury declined to indict anyone, and the Department of Justice then said it would probe possible civil rights violations.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman and the Department of Justice said Tuesday they found insufficient evidence to pursue charges against Beavercreek police Officer Sean Williams, who fired the fatal shot. They said investigators analyzed store surveillance video using resources at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, interviewed witnesses and used an independent crime scene reconstruction expert in their review.
"The government would be required both to disprove his (Williams') stated reason for the shooting — that he was in fear of death or serious bodily injury — and to affirmatively establish that Officer Williams instead acted with the specific intent to violate Mr. Crawford's rights," they said in a statement, adding that the evidence "simply cannot satisfy those burdens."
The statement said Department of Justice officials had informed Crawford's family.
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The family's attorney, Michael Wright, said it has been a frustrating wait and now their only recourse is their civil lawsuit, which is pending in federal court for trial next year.
"The family is very upset. They're still grieving," he said. "And now it appears there's no recourse and that nothing will be done through the criminal justice system. It's almost like these guys are getting away with murder."
The lawsuit by Crawford's relatives, who say he was "shot on sight," was filed against Beavercreek police and Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and alleges negligence and civil rights violations. The city and Walmart denied the allegations.
The Crawford shooting is among several fatal police shootings of black men across the United States that have raised attention over the last three years to how police deal with black people.
In Cincinnati, a prosecutor is considering whether to seek a third trial of a white former University of Cincinnati police officer in the fatal shooting of a black motorist after two hung juries.
Associated Press reporter John Seewer in Toledo contributed.
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