Wal-Mart shooting: Dad hears son's dying breaths on phone

The father of a man fatally shot by police at an Ohio Wal-Mart says a cellphone call in which he said he heard his son's dying breaths keeps replaying in his head.

John Crawford Jr. talked about that last day of his son's life to The Cincinnati Enquirer in a telephone interview from his home in Jackson, Tennessee. His son, John Crawford III, was shot Aug. 5 in a Wal-Mart in the Dayton, Ohio,  suburb of Beavercreek. A caller to the emergency dispatcher told police that Crawford III was waving a weapon that turned out to be an air rifle.

Officers have said Crawford III was shot when he didn't respond to orders to put the gun down. The Crawford family and their attorney have said that a section of store surveillance video they saw shows Crawford III holding the air rifle and talking on his cellphone.

The family has requested public release of the store video. But Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has refused to release it while the investigation is continuing.

Crawford Jr. said he was in Ohio the day of the shooting and had stopped by to see his son, who wasn't at his Fairfield home. The mother of his son's two young children was there talking on her cellphone to Crawford III, who was at the Wal-Mart shopping, according to Crawford Jr. He said she began screaming when she heard shots and put the call on speaker.

"You could hear in the background he was gasping," Crawford Jr. told the newspaper. "I'm virtually listening to my kid taking his last breath."

Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier is now overseeing the investigation as special prosecutor. Piepmeier is scheduled to present evidence in the case to a Greene County grand jury this month. Jurors will determine if anyone should be charged in the shooting.

But the parents of Crawford III and their attorney have asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to take over the investigation and determine if there were any civil rights violations.

"We do believe there was a violation of his civil rights and that does have to do with race," family attorney Michael Wright said.

Federal authorities have said they are monitoring the situation.

Crawford Jr. described his son as a typical 22-year-old who was laid back and very family oriented. He had once considered going into the military and had recently said he wanted to start college, his father said.

"He was figuring out his next step," Crawford Jr. said.

The final autopsy report has not been completed, and Crawford Jr. said he has not been told which of the two officers involved shot his son.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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