John Crawford III was shot dead by Beavercreek, Ohio, police about a month ago for simply carrying a BB gun as he walked through the aisles in Wal-Mart.
A witness to the incident, Ronald Ritchie, was responsible for calling 911 and reporting Crawford to law enforcement, saying that a black man was “walking around with a gun in the store,” posing a threat to shoppers and pointing the firearm toward them, The Guardian reports.
However, now Ritchie is changing his story, insisting that Crawford never made any gesture indicative of pointing the gun at customers in the store.
“At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody,” the 24-year-old told The Guardian, although he still claims that Crawford III was waving the BB gun around.
That is not the only hole opening up in Ritchie’s story. According to The Guardian, the young man, who had previously told reporters after the shocking shooting that he was an “ex-Marine,” now acknowledges that he was tossed from the Corps for “fraudulent enlistment” after serving only seven weeks. Ritchie explained to the news site that his removal from the Corps was due to problems with his paperwork.
Ritchie told The Guardian that he has a heart condition that caused him to be discharged. He claims that he had disclosed the condition, but said that his recruiter never turned in the paperwork. Weeks later he was dismissed after his condition was discovered, he explained.
Attorneys for Crawford’s family, however, are trying to get surveillance video of that fateful day in early August released in order to further discredit Ritchie’s version of the events before the young father of two was gunned down.
According to the attorneys, who have been able to view the video footage, Crawford never made any threatening movements, and every other shopper seemed unbothered by his presence, BB gun and all.
“It was an execution, no doubt about it,” John Crawford II said of his son’s death. “It was flat-out murder. And when you see the footage, it will illustrate that.”
According to the attorneys and family who have seen the video, Crawford III was on his cellphone as he walked into the sporting goods section of the chain store, picking up the BB gun that was already unboxed. They claim that he continued walking around the store with the BB gun at his side, pointed toward the floor.
Only once did he hoist it up a bit, a gesture that his father thinks was made because the gun had perhaps become too heavy. “He kind of swung it like you carry it on your shoulder, then he immediately put it back down,” his father explained.
“You can clearly see people walk past him, and they didn’t think anything about it. Everybody was just kind of minding their own business,” Crawford II added. “He wasn’t acting in any type of way that he would have been considered menacing, if you will.”
As the young man approached the pen aisle, he stood still for quite a few minutes, deep in conversation on his phone, the air rifle still pointed toward the floor.
Shortly afterward, officers arrived on the scene, where they shot Crawford III, ultimately killing him. According to The Guardian, friends and family who saw the footage said that he was turned away, facing the opposite direction from the officers. The young man didn’t appear to see, or even hear, the officers.
“He doesn’t look at the officers, he doesn’t turn his body towards the officers. It’s as if he was just shot on sight by the officers,” attorney Michael Wright insists.
Ritchie previously told reporters that Crawford III turned to the officers on their commands to drop the weapon. He then made a move as if he were going to run, causing the gun muzzle to point toward the officers before they started firing.
However, The Guardian notes, the family has said that an autopsy shows that the young man was shot in the back of his left arm and in his left side, which indicates that he was not facing the officers when he was shot.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has not released the video to the public, fearing that it would be “playing with dynamite” and hinder a fair trial, according to The Guardian.
Read more at The Guardian.