Family of John Crawford III file federal lawsuit over Wal-Mart killing

CINCINNATI (AP) — The family of a black man fatally shot by a white police officer as he held an air rifle inside a Wal-Mart filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday charging negligence and violation of the man’s civil rights.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court against the Ohio city of Beavercreek, the two Beavercreek officers involved, the police chief and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

John Crawford III was shot Aug. 5 inside the store. Police responded after someone called the 911 emergency dispatch number and reported Crawford was waving what appeared to be a firearm.

A grand jury concluded the shooting was justified.

The case is one of several that have fueled a national debate on how law enforcement treat young black men. Even more attention has surrounded the police killings of two black men who were unarmed in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Grand juries also declined to indict the white officers involved in those cases.

“All we want is justice for John Crawford,” the family’s attorney, Michael Wright said at a news conference Tuesday.

Crawford’s family has said previously that it was “incomprehensible” that police weren’t indicted.

Wright said the criminal justice system has so far refused to hold the officers accountable and it is necessary for the civil justice system to do so.

Messages left seeking comment from Arkansas-based Wal-Mart and Beavercreek city attorney Steve McHugh, who has served as a spokesman for the city and police, were not immediately returned.

The lawsuit charges that all the parties were guilty of negligence and that the officers were guilty of recklessness and depriving Crawford of his constitutional rights, including the right to be free of unreasonable seizures and excessive use of force. The lawsuit also alleges that Wal-Mart was negligent in the placement of guns at its store and for failing to secure the air rifle.

The lawsuit seeks at damages of at least $75,000, but that amount could change as the case proceeds, the attorneys said. 

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