The father of an Ohio Walmart shooting victim says he will forever be haunted by the sounds of his son taking his final breaths over a cellphone.
John Crawford Jr. recently spoke with the Cincinnati Enquirer about the day his son was shot and killed at a Walmart in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek.
On that fateful day of Aug. 5, the victim’s father stopped by his son’s home as was his custom every week, hoping to have dinner with John Crawford III. Upon arrival, the mother of his son’s children was holding the phone and screaming.
“Mr. John. Mr. John. They shot him. They shot him,” cried LeeCee Johnson, turning on the cellphone speaker so Crawford Jr. could hear.
“You could hear in the background he was gasping. I’m virtually listening to my kid taking his last breath,” said Crawford Jr.
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John Crawford III and Tasha Thomas, a woman who identified herself as a girlfriend, entered the store and split up to do their own shopping.
Thomas reported that police began yelling and ordered shoppers to evacuate the store. She tried to find Crawford III, but later learned that he had been shot dead by police.
The woman reported that Crawford III was unarmed when they arrived at the Ohio Walmart store. His father agrees, and says the shooting was unjustified and based on race.
“The footage we saw, he didn’t know the officers were in the store,” said Crawford Jr. “There was no reaction (from him) at all by the time the trigger was pulled. We were waiting to see him menacing, waving this thing in a threatening position with women or children. None of that happened from the footage we saw. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just standing there. The final analysis is that my son was murdered. All this nonsense of (them saying) ‘Put the weapon down’ two or three times. There was no reaction from him. There couldn’t have been a cadence given.”
Johnson was on the phone with Crawford III moments before the shooting and recalled her children’s father’s final moments.
“We was just talking. He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” said Johnson.
Johnson said she “could hear him just crying and screaming” and recalls him saying they “shot him down like he was not even human.”
A police report says the officers involved in the shooting realized the man was holding a toy rifle, corroborating Johnson’s claim that she heard Crawford III telling them it “wasn’t real” before they shot him.
Crawford Jr. believes race played a factor in the shooting and wants murder charges filed against the officer who used excessive force.
A special prosecutor has been retained in the Ohio Walmart shooting and the investigation is ongoing.