When a police shooting at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, took the life of 22-year-old John Crawford III on August 5, the cops were responding to a 911 call from another shopper who said that Crawford was pointing an AR-15 rifle at customers in the aisles of the big box store.
In the call, 24-year-old Ronald Ritchie described a black man walking around the store with the weapon, telling the 911 operator, "He's, like, pointing it at people."
The 'gun' that Crawford was allegedly pointing turned out later to be a BB gun sold in the Walmart. Speaking to reporters after police showed up and shot Crawford dead, Ritchie repeated the allegation that Crawford, "was pointing at people. Children walking by."
Ritchie also told the 911 operator that he saw Crawford loading bullets into the supposed weapon, which clearly would have been impossible given that the toy was not a real gun.
But now Ritchie is telling a very different story. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper Sunday, Ritchie said that "at no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody."
UPDATE: In a video of his interview with police that emerged earlier this year, several months after the killing of John Crawford, Ritchie told a detective that Crawford "kind of deserved" to be shot and killed.
"If you're dumb enough to point any kind of weapon at a police officer then you get what's coming to you," Ritchie is heard to say in the recording. But Ritchie also admitted that he did not actually see Crawford point the BB gun at anyone.
Security video of the fatal incident also showed that Walker did not point the BB gun, and ultimately dropped the toy weapon before a police officer shot him.
An attorney for Crawford's family said that he believed Ritchie should be prosecuted for making false statements in his 911 call — falsehoods that were "the catalyst" that resulted in Crawford's death. But no legal action has yet been taken against Ritchie.
Ritchie continued to maintain that Crawford was "waving (the gun) around." But an attorney for Crawford's family who has seen Walmart surveillance video of the incident and the minutes leading up to the shooting says the video shows nothing of the kind.
Michael Wright said that the video shows Crawford walking while on the phone, with the BB gun pointed at the floor, except for one moment in which he casually swung the toy gun up to his shoulder.
Ritchie said that he was also shown the video by prosecutors, which Wright called "very improper." Witness stories must be based solely on their personal recollections of an incident, the lawyer said.
Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine has not made the video public, saying that to do so would "playing with dynamite."
Wright said that in the video, no other customers appeared to pay much notice to Crawford and the BB gun. But Ritchie said he felt threatened by Crawford, as did his wife, leading to the 911 call. Ritchie was the only person to call 911 from the Walmart.
So why would Ritchie lie about Crawford's actions? That remains unclear, but it appears that he told another lie as well. In his round of media interviews, Ritchie told reporters that he was "an ex-Marine."
The truth is that Ritchie was expelled from the Marine Corps after just seven weeks because his enlistment was determined to be "fraudulent." Ritchie now says that the debacle was simply the result of bad paperwork.
Ritchie continued to defend his 911 call, even though Crawford was simply carrying a BB gun picked up off a store shelf, saying that "Even still, it's a gun in Walmart, in a public place, inducing panic."
But Ohio has an "open carry" law, meaning that carrying a rifle in public is permissible under the law.
A 37-year-old woman also died, collapsing of heart failure in the panic that ensued in the police shooting of John Crawford in Walmart.
[Images: WHIO Screen Grab, Facebook]