Two years after the U.S. Dept. of Justice opened an investigation into the John Crawford III police-involved fatal shooting at a Beavercreek Walmart, his family’s attorney is scheduled to meet with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Attorney Michael Wright, who represents Crawford’s parents in a federal wrongful death lawsuit delayed by the secretive Justice Department probe, said he would meet with Lynch and Civil Rights Division Chief Vanita Gupta on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C.
“We would hope that we they would give us a little insight with regards to the investigation on why it’s taking so long,” Wright said Thursday about a case that predates many high-profile similar incidents like the latest in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C.
“I think the Dept. of Justice definitely has a responsibility to hold these officers accountable,” Wright said, adding there’s been 15-20 more fatal shootings of black men since Crawford. “As you can see, there’s been no deterrent because there continues to be shootings.”
Like Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine did with Walmart surveillance footage of Crawford, police in North Carolina have decided to show video of that shooting to the victim’s family, but not to the public. The video of the shooting in Oklahoma has been widely viewed.
“When they show the video, there’s calm,” Wright said. “People can see what actually happened. It appears that the police aren’t trying to hide or cover up anything. And as a result, I think people react a little better to that feeling as if something is being hidden.”
Wright had sent a letter to Lynch and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman in July asking the DOJ to wrap up its investigation into Crawford’s death by Aug. 31.
“We want the investigation to either move forward or to stop,” Wright said. “Because at this point, it is preventing us from doing anything in this case.”
Wright and his co-counsel want to depose Beavercreek police officers Sean Williams — who pulled the trigger twice and struck Crawford — and Sgt. David Darkow.
U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice has allowed the officers to avoid that because of the DOJ investigation.
Williams was cleared by a Greene County special grand jury on Sept. 24, 2014 — the same day former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Carter Stewart launched an investigation.
Since then, the DOJ hasn’t said much about the investigation, though Glassman told this news organization in April 2016 that a thorough process beats a fast one.
“Due to the ongoing investigation, the department will decline to comment,” Dept. of Justice deputy press secretary David Jacobs said Thursday.
“Well, it’s been ongoing for two years,” Wright said.
A new civil case calendar has been proposed. If accepted, it includes a deadline of Aug. 4, 2017 — one day before the third anniversary of Crawford’s death.
“I don’t know who’s not doing what, but something has to be done,” Wright said, adding that DOJ indictments, better recruiting and better training could help. “Something has to be done to prevent the types of killings that we are seeing day in and day out in this country.”
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