An Ohio man who called the police in August 2014 to report a man wielding what he believed was an assault rifle could be charged for making false alarms.
Ronald Ritchie was at a Walmart in Beavercreek near Dayton, Ohio, when he saw John Crawford III holding a gun, according to media reports.
The weapon turned out to be a BB/pellet gun Crawford had taken from one of the shelves.
"He was just waving it at children, people, items, I couldn’t hear anything that he was saying," Ritchie told the Dayton Daily News.
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“When people did look at him, he was pointing the gun at people and everything,” Ritchie added later.
Police responded to Ritchie’s call and an officer shot Crawford twice, fatally wounding him, after he failed to respond to police orders to put the weapon down.
Angela Williams, a 37-year-old bystander, also died. She had a heart attack while fleeing from the store after shots were fired.
Sean Williams, the officer who pulled the trigger, was never charged.
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Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth Root ruled that probable cause exists to charge Ritchie with the first degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Root wrote that a video taken from the Walmart surveillance camera and synchronized with Ritchie’s 911 call “contains approximately four minutes of Ronald Ritchie’s 911 call with accompanying footage of Mr. Crawford before the video shows the officer arriving. The video does depict Mr. Crawford swinging or waving an item in a casual manner while looking at a shelf at the time of the call.”
Judge Root added that the quality of the video was poor.
“The court does note that at the time that Ronald Ritchie is relaying to dispatchers that Mr. Crawford is pointing the gun at two children, the video does not depict this event,” Root further wrote.
Michael Wright, an attorney for the Crawford family, stated that Ritchie had been “gravely mistaken” in the 911 call because Crawford posed no risk, the Associated Press reports. However, Wright did not blame Ritchie for Crawford’s death.
“It’s the police’s duty to show up and assess the situation prior to taking any type of action. So the fact that they came to the scene based on this faulty 911 call and shot John without properly assessing the situation, we blame the police department,” Wright said, according to the Associated Press.
The case has been handed over to the prosecutor’s office to determine whether Ritchie will be charged.