The civil lawsuit brought by John Crawford III’s parents against Walmart and Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams likely will go forward in the same trial, a federal judge ruled this week.
But U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice also ruled that counts against the city of Beavercreek and police Chief Dennis Evers won’t progress unless the jury finds fault in Williams’ actions.
Certain claims against Beavercreek are “predicated upon a finding that Officer Williams used excessive force when he shot and killed John Crawford,” Rice wrote. “Accordingly, there is no need to present of the City’s alleged failure to train and supervise Officer Williams unless the jury first finds that Officer Williams violated Crawford’s constitutional rights.”
Rice wrote that if the jury finds that, the same jury would determine if Beavercreek or Evers were responsible for failing to train or supervise.
The trial has been pushed back to Oct. 28 — more than five years after Williams shot twice and killed Crawford in Beavercreek’s Walmart — to give the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals time to decide on an appeal by Beavercreek to another ruling. The appeals court ruling could impact whether Beavercreek defendants and Walmart go to trial together.
Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, was shot Aug. 5, 2014 after 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.
Other rulings by Rice in Dayton’s U.S. District Court this week:
• Rice sustained Beavercreek’s motion to exclude testimony in the first part of the trial about Williams’ higher rates of using force and of his other use of deadly force. The judge said if the jury finds a constitutional violation against Williams, that evidence could be used in the case against the city and Evers.
• Rice overruled for now Beavercreek’s motion exclude references to a “toy gun,” “air gun,” “pellet rifle” and other similar terms, again depending on the appellate court’s decision.
• Rice overruled as moot Beavercreek motions to exclude references to other high-profile instances of law enforcement shooting black men and to Beavercreek’s dispute with the Greater Dayton RTA concerning bus stops. Rice said plaintiffs did not plan to reference those situations.
• Rice sustained Beavercreek’s motion to exclude testimony of Williams’ tattoo of a warthog dressed as an officer with a smoking gun.
• Rice sustained a plaintiff’s motion to exclude testimony regarding a minimal amount of marijuana found in Crawford’s body.
• Rice overruled Walmart’s motion to exclude evidence of the MK-177 being out of its box, overruled its motion to exclude employee discipline, sustained Walmart’s motion to exclude talk of punitive damages and overruled its motion to exclude testimony about how Walmart stores actual firearms.
• Rice also overruled Walmart’s motion to exclude the introduction of an email from a Minnesota shopper who said two children picked up an air rifle, pointed it at customers and therefore said such items should be stored in the same manner as actual firearms.
A Greene County special grand jury in 2014 cleared Williams of any criminal charges. A federal civil right investigation against Beavercreek police was closed in 2017 when it was determined they did not have enough evidence to go forward.
Shopper Angela Williams died of a heart condition after she tried to run out of the Walmart that night after the officer’s shots. Her family did not take any legal action.