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Police Shooting Of Man With Toy Gun Could Lead To Lawsuit

John Crawford, 22, was shot by police while carrying a toy gun around an Ohio Walmart. His family claims he told officers the gun wasn't real.
Posted at 8:04 PM, Aug 07, 2014

The family of an Ohio man shot and killed by law enforcement Tuesday night in a Dayton Walmart are saying they may sue the Beavercreek Police Department.

John Crawford was shot twice by officers who were responding to a 911 call. Another Walmart customer had called police about a potential gunman in the store.

"Black gentleman walking up holding what looks to be an AR-15. Called the police. Waving at people, waving at little children, waving the gun."

The situation escalated from there.

"The officers gave verbal commands to the subject to drop the weapon. The subject, later identified as John Crawford, was shot after failing to comply with the officers' commands."

The weapon turned out to be an air rifle. Crawford's family maintains he wasn't threatening anyone, and the mother of his two children, who was on the phone with Crawford when the shooting happened, says he told officers the gun was fake.

"He said it wasn't real, and I was trying to figure out what was he saying wasn't real. I heard later on it was a gun that was in Walmart."

His family says they're looking into hiring a lawyer and have contacted the NAACP, saying racism might have played a role in why officers decided to pull the trigger. An investigation is ongoing, but police are typically given a lot of leeway when it comes to fake guns. 

A writer for the law enforcement site PoliceOne says, with fake guns made to look like real guns and real guns even made to look like fake ones, it's unrealistic to ask officers to tell the difference when making a split-second decision.

Police say realistic fake guns are a problem for just that reason. A 14-year-old Michigan boy carrying a replica handgun was shot by officers last November. 

And, back in October, a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed while carrying a realistic-looking toy rifle. The killing led to protests and national outrage at the police.

Tragically, Tuesday's incident also claimed a second life: Angela Williams, a nurse who collapsed from an apparent medical condition while fleeing the store after the shots were fired.

Several cities and states have laws restricting the sale of realistic-looking toy guns. Police say, real or fake, you should drop any gun when law enforcement officers tell you to.

This video includes images from Getty Images.