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Citizens motion viable in John Crawford case

Published: Friday, June 12, 2015 @ 9:32 PM
Updated: Friday, June 12, 2015 @ 9:32 PM

The attorney for John Crawford III’s family or another group could ask a judge to find probable cause against Beavercreek police in the August 2014 fatal shooting at the Beavercreek Walmart, Tom Hagel, University of Dayton School of Law professor emeritus, said Friday.

“Theoretically, yes,” he told Dayton Daily News Staff Writer Mark Gokavi, “because double jeopardy is not attached” to the grand jury process.

Employing such an strategy led a Cleveland Municipal judge to find probable cause that two police officers broke the law in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice at a park in November 2014.

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Local activists known as the “Cleveland 8” sought the citizens motion known as an “affidavit of person having knowledge of offense,” they said, because they had lost confidence in the grand jury investigation. The ruling is only advisory. Whether charges are pursued will be up to Cuyahoga County and Cleveland prosecutors.

“In terms of why citizens would do this, again I can’t read their minds, but it might be that, No. 1, it keeps the case alive and in public view,” Hagel said.

Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, was shot by Officer Sean Williams, dispatched to the store after a 911 caller said a black male was waving a rifle at people, including children. Crawford had picked up a BB/pellet rifle from an opened box in the store and walked around with it as he talked on his phone. Police said they twice told Crawford to drop the item before Williams fired.

On Sept. 25, 2014, a Greene County special grand jury declined to indict Williams on criminal charges.

A federal civil lawsuit filed by attorneys representing Crawford’s family against the police officers and Walmart is pending. The Justice Department continues to review the case and hasn’t said whether the government will seek charges.