A 911 caller won’t be charged for reporting a man waving a gun in a Ohio Wal-Mart store before police fatally shot the shopper, who’d picked up an air rifle from a shelf, a special prosecutor said Monday.
The decision was made by Mark Piepmeier, the prosecutor who presented the shooting case to a grand jury. The grand jury concluded the August 2014 shooting of John Crawford III at the Beavercreek store, near Dayton, was justified.
The grand jury had authority to bring charges against 911 caller Ronald Ritchie if merited but didn’t, Piepmeier said in a Monday court filing outlining his findings that no charges are warranted.
“I don’t find any evidence that Mr. Ritchie knew any of the information he was providing was false,” Piepmeier wrote.
The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, where Piepmeier is chief assistant prosecutor, said he wouldn’t comment further.
A group of people who took interest in the shooting had used an obscure law to push for prosecution of Ritchie, who told investigators he thought the firearm was real.
The law allows private citizens to make complaints for review by a judge, who can then refer them for further review by a prosecutor. A Fairborn Municipal Court judge reviewed the filings, including surveillance video synchronized with the 911 recording, and ruled there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Ritchie for misdemeanor making false alarms.
One of the filers, Dayton area activist Bomani Moyenda, said he thinks the prosecutor ignored video segments that indicate Crawford wasn’t doing what the caller described at certain moments.
“There’s just no semblance of justice anywhere at all,” said Moyenda, who added he’ll consider whether there are any other legal avenues to push the matter further.
Another filer said he was appalled by Piepmeier’s ruling.
“I don’t know how anybody could view that videotape and believe the caller was acting in good faith,” said Roi Qualls, a software engineer from Yellow Springs. “He said things that just weren’t true.”
Piepmeier has handled some of Ohio’s biggest cases, including a deadly 1993 prison riot and cases involving excessive force by police, but the filers were upset he was the prosecutor appointed to review the 911 caller’s role. They noted that after the grand jury’s decision he had publicly described Ritchie as someone “trying to be a good citizen.”
Ritchie, of Riverside, was the only person to call 911 before shots were fired at the store. He reported a man walking around waving an apparent rifle and “pointing it at people.” The next day, he told authorities the man didn’t point the firearm but swung it around and flashed the muzzle at children.
Calls to Ohio and Florida phone numbers associated with Ritchie’s name have gone unanswered.
An attorney for Crawford’s relatives, who sued the officers, has said they hold police responsible for what happened.
Police said they believed Crawford, 22, had a real weapon and didn’t respond to commands to put it down, something the soundless video can’t corroborate.
The shooting remains under review by the U.S. Department of Justice.