911 Caller in Walmart Shooting Escapes Charges

A 911 caller won’t be charged for reporting a man waving a gun in a Wal-Mart store before police fatally shot the shopper, who’d picked up an air rifle from a shelf, a special prosecutor said Monday.

The decision was made by Mark Piepmeier, the same prosecutor who had presented the shooting case to a grand jury. It concluded that the August 2014 shooting of 22-year-old John Crawford III at the Beavercreek store, near Dayton, was justified.

Piepmeier determined there was no evidence the caller knew he was providing false information. An earlier grand jury had authority to bring charges against the caller if merited but didn’t.

The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, where Piepmeier is chief assistant prosecutor, said he wouldn’t comment further.

A group of people who took interest in the shooting had used an obscure law to push for prosecution of 911 caller Ronald Ritchie, who told investigators he thought the firearm was real.

The law allows private citizens to make complaints for review by a judge who can then refer them for further review by a prosecutor. A Fairborn Municipal Court judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Ritchie for making false alarms, a misdemeanor, but Piepmeier concluded no charges are warranted.

The Riverside man was the only person to call 911 before shots were fired at the store. He reported a man walking around waving an apparent rifle and “pointing it at people.” The next day, the Riverside man told authorities the man actually didn’t point the firearm but swung it around and flashed the muzzle at children.