CINCINNATI, OH (AP)– A 911 caller won’t be charged for reporting a man waving a gun in a Walmart store before police fatally shot the shopper, who’d picked up an air rifle from a shelf, a special prosecutor said Monday.
The decision was made by Mark Piepmeier, the same prosecutor who had presented the shooting case to a grand jury. It concluded that the August 2014 shooting of 22-year-old John Crawford III at the Beavercreek store, near Dayton, was justified.
There was no evidence the caller knew he was providing false information, and the earlier grand jury had authority to bring charges against the caller if merited but didn’t, Piepmeier said in a Monday court filing outlining his findings.
The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, where Piepmeier is chief assistant prosecutor, said he wouldn’t comment further.
A group of people who took interest in the shooting had used an obscure law to push for prosecution of 911 caller Ronald Ritchie, who told investigators he thought the firearm was real.
The law allows private citizens to make complaints for review by a judge who can then refer them for further review by a prosecutor. A Fairborn Municipal Court judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Ritchie for making false alarms, a misdemeanor, but Piepmeier concluded no charges are warranted.
Piepmeier has handled some of Ohio’s biggest cases, including a deadly 1993 prison riot and cases involving excessive force by police, but the filers were upset that he was the prosecutor appointed to review the 911 caller’s role. They noted that after the grand jury’s decision, Piepmeier had publicly described Ritchie as someone “trying to be a good citizen.”
The Riverside man was the only person to call 911 before shots were fired at the store. He reported a man walking around waving an apparent rifle and “pointing it at people.” The next day, the Riverside man told authorities the man actually didn’t point the firearm but swung it around and flashed the muzzle at children.
Calls to Ohio and Florida phone numbers associated with Ritchie’s name have gone unanswered.
An attorney for Crawford’s relatives, who sued the officers, has said they hold police responsible for what happened.
Police said that they believed Crawford had a real weapon and that he didn’t respond to commands to put it down – something the soundless surveillance video of the encounter can’t corroborate.
The shooting remains under review by the U.S. Department of Justice.
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