COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Two policemen who confronted a man carrying an air rifle in a Wal-Mart will be allowed to postpone giving formal statements about the deadly police shooting in a lawsuit while a federal criminal investigation is pending.
The depositions of Beavercreek police Officer Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow will be delayed at least three months under last week’s ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Newman.
Their attorneys argued the officers faced an “impossible” choice: give statements that might contribute to a potential criminal case against them or invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination and skip a chance to defend themselves in the civil matter. They argued it was in the interests of justice to postpone the depositions while the Department of Justice reviews whether civil rights violations occurred.
Newman granted a limited stay for 90 days, noting that it wouldn’t delay key dates in the legal proceedings and attorneys could continue taking statements from other witnesses.
The case stems from the August 2014 death of John Crawford III, who was shot by Williams after a 911 caller reported someone waving a gun. Police said Crawford, 22, appeared to have a real weapon and didn’t respond to orders to drop it. Investigators later determined Crawford was talking on a cellphone and had picked up an unloaded air rifle from a shelf at the suburban Dayton store.
The case became part of larger discussions about police use of force and the role of race. Crawford was black, and Williams is white.
Attorneys for Crawford’s family noted the officers testified before the grand jury that concluded the shooting was justified, and they argued the policemen shouldn’t get to “pick and choose” when they discuss the shooting. A message was left Monday for those lawyers.
The family’s lawsuit was filed against Beavercreek police and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and alleges negligence and civil rights violations. The city and Wal-Mart denied the allegations.
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