August 26, 2014 / 6:00 PM / 5 years ago

Ohio appoints special prosecutor for fatal police shooting at Walmart

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio’s attorney general said on Tuesday he has assigned a prosecutor with experience in police-involved shootings to investigate the death of a man shot while holding a BB gun at a Dayton-area Walmart.

But lawyers for the family of John Crawford III, who was shot and killed by Beavercreek police earlier this month, said his death was unjustified, demanded that all surveillance video of the shooting be released and called for the case to be turned over to federal authorities.

Attorney General Mike DeWine told reporters that Mark Piepmeier of Hamilton County has been assigned as the special prosecutor for the case, which will go before a special grand jury on Sept. 22.

“What happened on August 5 is a true tragedy ...” DeWine said. “Mr. Piepmeier will do everything in his power to seek justice in this case.”

Crawford’s death came a few days before the Aug. 9 fatal shooting by police in Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, which is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department and has focused national attention on the use of deadly force by police.

Beavercreek police say they shot and killed Crawford because he was waving the BB gun and didn’t drop it when commanded by police, according to local media accounts.

Lawyers for the Crawford family and Crawford’s father have viewed 5 to 6 minutes of surveillance video of the shooting. The lawyers said at a news conference on Tuesday that Crawford was talking on a cell phone and had picked up the gun off a shelf.

“He was doing nothing more, nothing less than just shopping,” attorney Michael Wright said.

Crawford’s father, John Crawford Jr., told reporters he was concerned about the delay in the justice system dealing with the officers involved.

Beavercreek police asked the attorney general to take over the Ohio investigation, and the local county prosecutor said a special prosecutor was needed.

A representative for the Beavercreek police was not immediately available for comment.

Piepmeier, who has been involved in investigating more than 100 officer-involved use of force cases, will begin the special grand jury proceedings on Sept. 22.

Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Eric Beech

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