The Hamilton County attorney who will oversee the Sept. 22 special Greene County grand jury deciding if crimes were committed Aug. 5 when Beavercreek police shot and killed a shopper inside Walmart has prosecuted several police officers.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday that Mark Piepmeier presided over the grand jury process that indicted 47 of the 50 Lucasville prison riot participants in 1993, the shooting of a young black man in Cincinnati by a police officer that sparked that city’s 2001 riots and other high-profile cases.
Piepmeier will present evidence to a grand jury that will determine if Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams, Sgt. David Darkow or anyone will face criminal charges from the shooting death by police of Walmart customer John Crawford III, 22, of Fairfield.
“I have been involved in the investigation of and trial of officer-involved shootings and excessive use of force complaints against police officers in Hamilton County for the last 15 years,” said Piepmeier, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office chief trial counsel. “I will present everything relevant to the shooting to the Greene County Grand Jury along with the law regarding all possible criminal charges and any potential defenses to such charges.”
Police said Crawford twice failed to drop a weapon when instructed, while his family members said he was intending to buy the MK-177 (.177 caliber) Crosman airgun rifle BB/pellet gun he was carrying. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office said Crawford died of a gunshot wound to the torso, but Crawford’s family said he also was shot in the left elbow and that he was talking on his cell phone when he was shot.
“Mr. Piepmeier is fair,” DeWine said. “He is impartial. He calls it like he sees it. And he will have total independence in this case.”
The special grand jury will be sworn in Sept. 22, nearly three weeks later than the original Sept. 3 date originally set by DeWine. Court officials said grand jury summons already have been sent out to a random group of about 60 Greene County registered voters.
Piepmeier, a graduate of Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati, of Miami University and an Army veteran, has served in the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office since 1981. Piepmeier will be assisted by Stacey DeGraffenreid, also from the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
DeWine said Piepmeier has prosecuted noteworthy cases, including:
- Cincinnati police officer Kevin Schroeder, who was indicted and convicted of vehicular homicide after a 1989 case of causing a wreck in which two other officers helped cover it up.
- In 2000, Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy Owen Hobbs shot and killed Rashawn Berry in Silverton. Indicted for murder, Hobbs received a life sentence.
- Also in 2000, five Cincinnati police officers tried to arrest Roger Owensby Jr., who died of asphyxia. One officer eventually was acquitted.
- A grand jury indicted Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach after Roach shot and killed Timothy Thomas and set off the 2001 riots. Roach was acquitted.
A few protesters held signs saying, “#DONTSHOOT” and “Release THE TAPE” outside the courthouse Tuesday.
“I’m outraged at the shootings that have been happening around the country, and the militarization of the police force,” said Yellow Springs resident Michael Casselli. “I’m concerned that this happened in Walmart in very unclear circumstances. We don’t know what happened because we haven’t seen the videotape.”
DeWine also said Piepmeier is assigned to the Cincinnati police department to participate in and act as legal advisor for the investigation and prosecution of officer-involved shootings and has reviewed more than 100 excessive use of force cases.
“Mr. Piepmeier will do everything in his power, everything in his power, to seek justice in this case, which is what we all want,” DeWine said. “As I have said before, what happened on Aug. 5 is a true tragedy.”