Main Witness In Fatal Wal-Mart Police Shooting Changes His Story

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A man whose 911 call from inside an Ohio Wal-Mart preceded the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old John Crawford has changed his story.

Ronald Ritchie called 911 from inside the Beavercreek store on Aug. 5 claiming that Crawford was carrying a gun around and aiming it at other shoppers.

“He’s, like, pointing it at people,” Ritchie told 911 dispatchers. He also told reporters after Crawford was shot by two police officers that the man was also pointing the gun at children.

But in an interview with the Guardian, the 24-year-old Ritchie changed that crucial component of his story.

“At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody,” said Ritchie, who now claims that Crawford was “waving it around.”

It turned out that Crawford was carrying an air rifle — and one that Wal-Mart sells. His girlfriend, also the mother of his two children, says that she was on the phone with Crawford at the time of the shooting and that she heard him tell police “It’s not real” before he was shot.

Ritchie also told 911 that Crawford was “trying to load” the gun. According to the Guardian, the air rifle was not loaded. Making matters worse, the 911 dispatcher relayed Ritchie’s claim to police, saying that Crawford “just put some bullets inside.”

Beavercreek police turned the investigation over to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office. DeWine has refused to release video surveillance of the shooting to the public, claiming that doing so would taint a grand jury set to convene on Sept. 22.

DeWine did show Crawford’s family portions of some store surveillance video. They say that it showed that Crawford was not acting erratically with the air rifle.

“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’s father told the Guardian. “He wasn’t acting in any type of way that he would have been considered menacing, if you will.”

An attorney for Crawford’s family told The Daily Caller last month that the air rifle was not packaged when Crawford initially picked it off the shelf.

They say that video shows Crawford was on his cell phone and was facing towards a store shelf for nearly six minutes when police approached him from behind, ordered him to put the air rifle down, and shot. (RELATED: Attorney Shares Details Of Wal-Mart Police Shooting Video)

The family attorney told the Guardian that a preliminary autopsy shows that Crawford was shot in the back of his left arm and the left side of his body. That would support the family’s claim that Crawford was not facing police when they shot him.

Though many questions surround Crawford’s death, the incident was quickly obscured by the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Like Brown, Crawford was black. The officers who shot both are white.

Civil rights activists, including Al Sharpton, the national media and even President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in on Brown’s death, though there is evidence that he assaulted the officer who ended up shooting him.

The shooting was tragic in another way. Another shopper, 37-year-old Angela Williams, died from heart failure after hearing the shots fired.

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