Beavercreek has spent nearly $600,000 in legal costs related to the shooting of Fairfield’s John Crawford III, and the officer who fired the deadly shots is getting good reviews as a detective.
Beavercreek city law director Stephen McHugh confirmed that all of the $590,575 paid through early 2019 to multiple law firms has been paid by the city, not insurance companies.
McHugh provided the financial records after a public records request by the Dayton Daily News. A federal lawsuit filed by Crawford’s parents — initially scheduled earlier this month — now is scheduled for an October trial in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.
Beavercreek Mayor Bob Stone and McHugh declined comment about the legal cost to city taxpayers.
“I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed that instead of accepting responsibility,” Crawford family attorney Michael Wright said, “the city of Beavercreek would spend $590,000, to date, defending the bad actions of these officers.”
In 2017, McHugh said “that the two officers involved in the Aug. 5, 2014, incident were acting in accordance with their training,” adding: “While unfortunate, it was necessary for the city to retain outside counsel to defend the city and the officers involved in the civil lawsuit and the ongoing investigation by the Dept. of Justice.”
Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams, who shot and killed Crawford on Aug. 5, 2014, has been assigned as a detective for more than a year and a half.
In that time, Williams has earned positive performance reviews — getting all 4s and 5s in several categories on a 1-to-5 scale. Those records also were provided after an open records request.
Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, was shot after lone 911 caller Ronald Ritchie told dispatchers a black man was holding a rifle, appeared to be loading it and waving it near people, including children.
Crawford was holding a Crosman MK-177 BB/pellet rifle he found unpackaged on a store shelf.
Williams and Sgt. David Darkow responded to Walmart, and Williams fired within seconds of seeing Crawford after officers said they shouted out commands. Surveillance video and evidence showed Crawford was on his cell phone talking to the mother of his two children.
Cost to Beavercreek taxpayers
Beavercreek has paid about $160,000 in legal costs since spring 2017 when this news organization made a similar request.
Through mid-March 2017, the city had spent about $430,000, including about $210,000 to two Washington, D.C. law firms related to the Dept. of Justice review of the case for possible civil rights charges.
The majority of those funds — about $178,000 — were defense for Darkow, the other responding officer who did not fire his weapon.
After the DOJ announced in July 2017 that it could not prove any charges, the fees have fallen and most money has been spent with two local firms, including the one that employs McHugh.
Of the $160,000 spent since March 2017, nearly half — more than $78,000 — has gone to attorney Neil Freund, a partner at Freund, Freeze & Arnold who bills Beavercreek at $235 per hour.
Freund’s rate is much lower than lawyers at Hogan Lovells, the D.C. firm Beavercreek employed that had five attorneys who billed from $639 to $930 per hour.
Williams’ work as a detective
Williams became a detective on July 12, 2017, according to McHugh, who said the job change was not a promotion but an assignment.
In a 2017 job performance review, Sgt. Shawn Sumner wrote, “Det. Williams has been very productive” and the rest of the sentence was redacted.
McHugh wrote that the redaction was made pursuant to state laws “based on Officer Williams’ constitutionally protected rights under Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
Sumner wrote in the summary comments that Williams “is always willing to jump in and help with other’s cases.”
Out of 20 categories in his 2017 review, Williams scored 5s (the highest possible) on attendance and punctuality, physical requirements, teamwork and safety and equipment use, a 3 on planning and organization and 4s on the others. His final score was 4.09.
Williams’ 2018 review was similar to 2017, as he scored 5s in investigative skills, physical requirements and teamwork. He had 4s in the other 17 categories. His final score was 4.16.
“Williams continues to show great growing in his current role and a willingness to learn and improve his skills, abilities and knowledge,” Sumner wrote.