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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 3:58 pm

Officers seek delay in shooting suit

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Two policemen who confronted a man carrying an air rifle in a Wal-Mart have asked a court to let them wait to give formal statements about the deadly police shooting in a lawsuit while a federal criminal investigation is pending.

In court filings, their attorneys said Beavercreek police Officer Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow face an “impossible and conflicting” choice: give statements that could contribute to a potential criminal case against them, or invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination and skip an opportunity to defend themselves in the civil case.

It stems from the August 2014 death of 22-year-old John Crawford III of Fairfield, a black man who was shot by Williams, who is white, after a 911 caller reported seeing someone waving a gun at the store in the Dayton suburbs.

Police said Crawford appeared to have a real weapon and didn’t respond to orders to drop it. Investigators determined that Crawford was talking on a cellphone and had picked up the air rifle from a store shelf.

The officers argue that the interests of justice would be served if the court grants their request to temporarily postpone their depositions, perhaps for months, while the Department of Justice reviews whether civil rights violations occurred.

In response, attorneys for Crawford’s family said the officers have already provided statements and testified before the grand jury, which concluded that the shooting was justified.

Their request is an attempt “to pick and choose when they will, or will not, discuss Mr. Crawford’s death” and should be rejected, the family’s lawyers wrote.

The officers’ lawyers say a similar stay was granted in a lawsuit with a pending criminal investigation in another highly publicized Ohio case about a fatal shooting by police – the Cleveland death of Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old who had a pellet gun.

But Crawford’s family’s attorneys say that’s different because the officers involved hadn’t given statements, and the case hadn’t been considered by a grand jury for possible state charges.

The lawsuit by Crawford’s relatives, who say he was “shot on sight,” was filed against Beavercreek police and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The city and Wal-Mart denied the allegations.