Family of Ohio man shot and killed in Walmart sue the store chain, police

Tressa Sherrod cries after telling the story of her son, 22-year-old John Crawford III who was shot and killed by police in an Ohio Walmart, during a press conference with other mothers who have lost children during police action as they call for pol
Tressa Sherrod cries after telling the story of her son, 22-year-old John Crawford III who was shot and killed by police in an Ohio Walmart, during a press conference with other mothers who have lost children during police action as they call for police accountability and reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

CLEVELAND (REUTERS) - The family of an Ohio man shot and killed by police while holding a BB gun in a Walmart store filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit on Tuesday against the police and the national retail chain.

Mr John Crawford, 22, was shot after a 911 caller reported a man with a gun at the Beavercreek Walmart in a suburb of the southern Ohio city of Dayton.

In a surveillance video released by authorities, Mr Crawford, who is black, can be seen picking up an unpackaged BB gun off a shelf and walking through the store while talking on a cellphone until a white police officer shot him.

Mr Crawford's death came a few days before the Aug 9 fatal shooting by police in Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, which is being investigated by the US Justice Department and has focused national attention on the use of deadly force by police.

In September, a grand jury opted not to indict the two Beavercreek officers involved in the shooting.

"All we want is justice for John Crawford and everyone responsible for John Crawford's death should be held responsible," Mr Michael Wright, an attorney for the family, said in a news conference on Tuesday. "The criminal justice system refused to hold those accountable so the civil system must."

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, names the city of Beavercreek; Officer Sean Williams, the officer who shot Crawford; Sergeant David Darkow, who accompanied Officer Williams; Police Chief Dennis Evers; and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The suit said Officer Williams shot Mr Crawford about one second after making contact with him.

The Crawford case has been compared to the more recent case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy, who was carrying a pellet gun when he was shot dead within two seconds of police arriving.

Mr Wright said that other stores, including other Walmarts, package BB guns with security devices that make the packaging difficult to open. Lawyers said the gun in the Crawford case was unboxed and had been lying on a shelf for at least two days.

"Customers are not supposed to be shot on sight when shopping at Walmart," said Mr Richard Schulte, another attorney for the Crawford family.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said store officials had not yet received the suit, which demands more than US$75,000 (S$97,655) in damages, and could not comment.

Beavercreek city attorney Steve McHugh was not available for comment on Tuesday.