In August 2014, a man named John Crawford was shot and killed in a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart by a local police officer. What was his crime? Walking around the store with a BB gun. For months, both Walmart and the Beavercreek police refused to release surveillance footage showing the shooting. When the footage was finally released, it showed nothing to support the narrative established by police and their supporters.
The video showed Crawford standing in the pet aisle, holding his cell phone to his left ear while holding the BB gun in his right hand, pointed into the floor. Officer Sean Williams suddenly came from around the corner, and shot Crawford twice with his automatic AR 15, giving Crawford less than one second to comply with command to drop the gun. An initial police report of the shooting was virtually blank. It only included three words: “Shooting at Walmart.” A full report was not written and filed until seemingly all the officers involved had a chance to get together and get their stories straight.
There have been numerous protests since the shooting, including a die-in at Walmart and I have covered most of them very closely as an independent journalist. This was until the most recent one when I was arrested by the Beavercreek Police and charged with trespassing and obstruction of official business. This particular protest took place on Christmas Eve, inside the Fairfield Commons mall, a local shopping mall located across the street from the Walmart where the shooting took place.
While I disagreed with using the Mall as a venue to protest events that did not take place there, I observed officers escalating an otherwise very peaceful situation. Their officers trapped over a hundred people, including protesters, journalists and shoppers with small children (unrelated to the protest) into a small area. Those of us who informed them that we wanted to get out of the area and leave were told “we don’t care” and were pushed into the North East entrance doors of the Mall. Worse, as protesters were leaving, BCPD again started assaulting them and arresting those who were vocally calling out for justice. One officer purposefully stomped on an Eric Garner banned made by the protesters, then posed for a picture doing it.
An older woman, who is a retired law professor from the University of Dayton was pushed down and then ordered to stand up so she could be handcuffed. Because of her age she could not, and BCPD officers were attempting to drag her on the pavement. Another man was being dragged on the pavement by his arms and a fourteen year old who was taking pictures was in the process of being arrested for crossing some undefined imaginary line in the pavement, however his father intervened and helped BCPD save face.
While I was clearly present as a journalist (and not a protester) and was displaying my press badge, I was also arrested and while I cooperated with the officers at every step, they still attempted to break my left wrist and put on plastic cuffs very tightly around my wrists, searching my backpack without my consent and without a warrant. Worse, most of the BCPD officers involved in these activities removed their nametags so it was difficult to identify them. The one cuffing me was pulling on my cuffs while I was standing still and not resisting, causing the sharp edges to cut into my wrists.
At the time of my arrest I was recording everything using a mobile app called Bambuser. Police took my phone away immediately and I mistakenly believed that they powered the phone off, wishing that the phone could have recorded some of the interaction that took place in the arrest processing area. Unbeknownst both to me and to the police, my phone continued to record audio for at least another 25 minutes or more, recording some very disgraceful comments made by Beavercreek officers.
As I have been writing critical pieces about this department for several years, they all know me very well and they appeared quite happy to finally find a reason to handcuff me. Several years ago this same department detained me for open carrying. Ohio is an open carry state, and at the time their officers were not aware that it is legal. So this time was understandably upset for being arrested. When asked about an ID, I informed them that my ID is in my pocket, and asked them not to touch my genitals. The response was, “You would like that too much!”
Even worse, when I was pointing out how police officers often get away with killing innocent people, including shooting John Crawford, officer Majercak mockingly apologized while smirking at me, saying, “I’m soooory, I’m soooory.” When I pointed out the killing of Eric Garner in New York, he again responded with a mocking, “Awwwww.”
You can listen to the entire audio clip below.
The callousness put on display, especially when police believe that nobody is recording, is disturbing. One can only imagine what they really discuss in the privacy of their homes and offices. It’s an outright disdain for the general public, for journalists and those who want to keep police accountable for their actions. To add insult to injury, the arrest reports filed by the three officers who arrested me are full of inaccuracies and outright lies. It is only by sheer luck that the audio saved by my phone will prove me innocent of many of the lies written by the arresting officers.
For now, Sean Williams is back at work and still employed by the Beavercreek PD. Nobody has been held accountable for the shooting of John Crawford. The department appears bent to continue arresting protesters, journalists and others who may be willing to question the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Crawford, never even offering a small apology for what happened. This man left behind a baby boy who will never know his father. And to add even more to this tragedy, Crawford’s girlfriend passed away in a car accident on New Year day, wrapping up what has been a tragic year for this family.