Ohio official: Man shot at Wal-Mart had air rifle

DAN SEWELL
Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) — A man who was fatally shot by police in a Wal-Mart store in a Dayton suburb after officers say he waved a weapon at customers was carrying an air rifle, Ohio’s attorney general said Thursday.

Attorney General Mike DeWine released a brief statement after the state’s crime bureau said it had taken over the investigation of the shooting at the request of Beavercreek police. Police had said John Crawford, 22, waved a rifle at customers Tuesday night and was fatally shot when he wouldn’t drop the weapon. DeWine said the man had a “variable pump air rifle” made by Crosman Corp.

The owner’s manual for the MK-177 BB/Pellet rifle warns that misuse can result in serious injury or death. And it specifically warns about waving it in public. “Police and others may think it is a firearm,” the manual states.

There was no immediate response to an email seeking comment sent Thursday to the Rochester, New York-based manufacturer.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation spokeswoman Jill Del Greco declined to elaborate on DeWine’s statement. Authorities didn’t say whether the man grabbed the air rifle in the store or had brought it in.

A man who witnessed the scene told a 911 dispatcher that a man with a rifle was near the pet supplies section and appeared to be loading it.

Family members and friends of Crawford had said earlier that he didn’t have a real gun and suggested that the purported rifle was a toy.

Del Greco said the BCI sent a crime scene unit and special investigators to Beavercreek. She said Beavercreek’s police chief requested that BCI act as independent investigator in the case. When done, BCI will turn its findings over to the Greene County prosecutor. Del Greco said there’s no timetable for completion, and it will be up to the county prosecutor to decide whether the case should go before a grand jury.

Beavercreek police referred questions Thursday to the BCI. Authorities said both police officers involved are on paid administrative leave.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said by email Wednesday that the company is working with investigators and is “deeply saddened about the loss of life.”

A 37-year-old customer, Angela Williams of Fairborn, died after suffering a medical problem during evacuation of the store, authorities said. It could be weeks before final autopsy results are known, they said.

Williams had worked two years as a floor nurse and then staffing administrator at Villa Springfield nursing home. Co-workers told WHIO-TV that Williams was supposed to get married this weekend. The nursing home’s administrator, Bill Robinson, called her a compassionate, free-spirited person who went “above and beyond every day” to help others out.

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