A 911 call by shopper Ronald Ritchie that led to a fatal police shooting in a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart could land the now 26-year-old Ritchie in jail after a judge found that surveillance video showing the killing of 22-year-old John Crawford III does not match what Ritchie told police in his emergency call.
Crawford, of Fairfield, Ohio, was slain in the Walmart on August 5, 2014, after Ritchie called 911 to report a man with a rifle in the store who was aiming the weapon at shoppers, including children. But on Wednesday, Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth Root determined that a surveillance video of the police shooting did not match what Ritchie described in his call, according to a report by WCPO-TV.
The “rifle” supposedly wielded by Crawford was, in fact, a toy BB gun that Crawford had removed from a shelf as he wandered the aisles at the Walmart store, talking on a cell phone.
— NBC4 Columbus (@nbc4i) April 7, 2016
In his call, Ritchie, who is white, told the 911 dispatcher that Crawford, who is African American, was “like, pointing it at people,” referring to the BB gun he described as an actual firearm. Ritchie also claimed in the call that he witnessed Crawford loading the rifle with ammunition.
The actual surveillance video, synchronized with audio of the Ronald Ritchie 911 call, can be viewed below, allowing readers to judge for themselves whether Ritchie provided an accurate description of Crawford’s actions leading up to his fatal shooting by police inside the Walmart.
The audio begins at about the 30-second mark on the video, but readers should be warned, as the video contains highly disturbing images.
A second shopper, 37-year-old Angela Williams, also died in the incident after suffering a heart attack while fleeing the store with her daughter in a panic as police stormed in and opened fire on Crawford.
In statements to the Dayton Daily News following the police killing, Ritchie emphasized the accusations he had made in the 911 call.
“He was just waving it at children, people, items, I couldn’t hear anything that he was saying,” Ritchie told the paper. “When people did look at him, he was pointing the gun at people and everything.”
But after watching the video with audio of the 911 call, Root found that there was “probable cause” to prosecute Ritchie on misdemeanor charges of “making false alarms,” which could land the man in jail for up to six months.
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“The item appears to be a rifle. At one point the caller advises that it appears that Mr. Crawford is trying to load the rifle. It is difficult to discern from the video what Mr. Crawford is doing at this point in time,” Root stated in her written ruling. “The court does note that at the time that Ronald Ritchie is relaying to dispatch that Mr. Crawford is pointing the gun at two children, the video does not depict this event.”
But Root did not find probable cause to slap Ritchie with the more serious charges of “inciting violence, inducing panic, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide.”
A video of a police interview with Ronald Ritchie emerged in early 2015. In that video, Ritchie tells a detective that Crawford “kind off deserved” to be killed.
Watch video of that police interview with Ronald Ritchie below.
“If you’re dumb enough to point any kind of weapon at a police officer then you get what’s coming to you,” Ritchie told the detective.
But Ritchie also later admitted that contrary to his 911 call statements and later statements to the press, he never saw Crawford point the supposed rifle at another person at all. The surveillance video does not appear to show Crawford threatening the police officers who quickly shot him.
— Carl Weiser (@cweiser) April 7, 2016
The police officer who fired the shots that killed John Crawford III in the Walmart, Sean Williams, was cleared by a grand jury, who ruled the fatal shooting “justified.” But a United States Justice Department investigation remains ongoing.
The probable cause ruling against Ronald Ritchie in the Walmart shooting death of John Crawford III at the hands of police was initiated by a group of private citizens who filed 10 separate criminal affidavits against Ritchie, a process that is permitted under Ohio law.
[Images via WHIO-TV Screen Capture, John Crawford III Facebook]