DAYTON, Ohio (CN) - Before fatally shooting him in the back, police gave a Wal-Mart customer less than one second to put down a pellet gun, the man's family claims in court.
Tressa Sherrod, the executrix of the estate of John Crawford III, and several of Crawford's other family members, filed the federal complaitn Tuesday against the city of Beavercreek, Officer Sean Williams, Sgt. David Darkow, Police Chief Dennis Evers and Wal-Mart.
Officer Williams shot and killed Crawford, 22, inside an Ohio Wal-Mart store on Aug. 5, 2014, according to the complaint.
Crawford's family says Williams and Darkow had been responding to a 911 call about "a black man at the Beavercreek Wal-Mart ... pointing a gun at customers."
Though Crawford "was not doing anything dangerous or illegal while shopping" at the Wal-Mart, the 911 call did in fact reference him, Crawford's family says.
Crawford had allegedly gone to the store with a friend to buy S'mores ingredients for a family cookout when he noticed an unloaded and unboxed pellet rifle lying on a store shelf.
"Crawford's never used, loaded or pointed the pellet rifle at anyone, was doing nothing improper or illegal, and never caused any harm or acted in a manner that would cause any reasonable person to believe that he may cause harm," his family claims.
The officers arrived at the store to find Crawford "talking on a cell phone held in his right hand, with no customers in his vicinity, and with his left side and back visible to the two police officers," according to the complaint.
"Mr. Crawford was holding the pellet rifle in his left hand pointed down at the floor.
"Defendant Williams shot and killed Mr. Crawford approximately one second after defendant Williams or Darkow first made contact with him.
"As a result, Mr. Crawford was shot before he even had time to react to the officer's [sic] presence, much less to comply with any verbal commands defendants Williams or Darkow may have made."
Sherrod says her son was shot "in the back of his left arm and the left side of his torso, further evidencing that John Crawford III was shot before he had time to react to the officers' presence or comply with any commands that may have been made."
Crawford's family wants punitive damages for wrongful death, excessive force, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Wal-Mart is to blame as well for Crawford's death because of its practice of "placing realistic looking guns in the stores' toy and/or sporting goods aisles," according to the complaint.
It was "reasonably foreseeable that customers or others would pick up, carry or otherwise handle the guns," the complaint states.
The family is represented by Richard Schulte of Wright and Schulte.