On Wednesday, 22-year-old John Crawford was shot dead inside a Wal-Mart by police in Beavercreek, Ohio, after a shopper called 911 to report someone inside with a gun. Now, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the gun Crawford was carrying was a BB gun known as a variable pump air rifle — a target-shooting and small game-hunting gun made to look like a real, more deadly weapon.
The MK-177 Crosman BB/Pellet Rifle gun is stocked in the shelves at Wal-Mart, and relatives of Crawford’s say he wasn’t carrying any gun when he entered Wal-Mart. He reportedly picked up the gun in the toy section of the store. The store says it has since been told to remove the gun from its shelves.
Some witnesses say Crawford was pointing the gun at customers and children, and did not comply with police commands. But Crawford’s family has asked state civil rights groups including the NAACP to look into the shooting. Crawford was black.
LeeCee Johnson, who says she is the mother of Crawford’s children, told the Dayton Daily News that she was on the phone with Crawford just prior to the shooting, and that he told her he was in the toy section when he said, “It’s not real.” She said she heard police say “get on the ground” before the gunshots. “I could hear him just crying and screaming,” she said. “I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Last year, a 13-year-old boy was shot dead by police in Santa Rosa, California when his BB gun made to look like an AK47 was mistaken for a real one.
Policymakers have called for toy, BB, and pellet guns to be more clearly differentiated from real ones. The gun that tricked officers last year was missing an orange cap meant to distinguish the gun. But the California legislature is considering a bill to require even clearer markings on pellet and BB guns, including transparent or bright-colored plastic throughout.
Pellet guns are not typically thought to be deadly for humans, but there are exceptions. Last year, a 6-year-old boy fatally shot a 12-year-old with a pellet gun at a birthday party.