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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A 911 caller who reported a man carrying a gun in Wal-Mart told state investigators he heard an officer repeatedly say "put it down" about two seconds before police shot the man, killing him, according to a summary of the interview released by the state.
The 24-year-old caller, Ronald Ritchie, was interviewed the day after the Aug. 5 shooting at the Beavercreek store in suburban Dayton that killed John Crawford III. Crawford, 22, had been talking on a cellphone and carrying an air rifle he picked up from a shelf as he walked through the store.
Ritchie's account, released with other investigative documents Tuesday, provides some support for written statements made by the two officers involved, who said Crawford appeared to be carrying a black assault rifle, didn't respond to repeated commands to drop it and turned toward them aggressively.
Crawford's relatives and their attorneys have questioned that version of events, contending the shooting was unreasonable and he was "shot on sight" with no chance to respond.
Ritchie's comments and an interview with another shopper who overheard the shooting indicate little time elapsed between the officers' orders and the gunshots. The second shopper said he didn't see the shooting but estimated the first gunshot came one or two seconds after he heard yelling, according to a report on that interview.
Store surveillance video captured the shooting from a distance but doesn't include audio and therefore doesn't document any comments by the officers or any reply, or the time between such comments and when Crawford drops to the floor.
Lee Cee Johnson, Crawford's girlfriend, told investigators she was on the phone with him and heard him say, "It's not real" almost immediately before she heard two gunshots.
Ritchie had called 911 to report a man was waving a gun and pointing it at people. In the next-day interview, Ritchie said the man actually didn't point the gun at people but swung it around and flashed the muzzle at children.
Ritchie and his wife told investigators the gun looked like an assault rifle he owned and said they believed it was a real weapon because they didn't see an orange tip indicating it was an air rifle. Ritchie said he heard police say, "Put it down, put it down," and he said it appeared the man "checked them" or pulled the gun toward the officers. He said the officer's shots came about two seconds after the police commands.
Ritchie's wife, April Ritchie, also told investigators she heard those commands.
"If you're dumb enough to point any kind of weapon at a police officer you get what's coming to you," Ronald Ritchie said, according to the interview summary.
Crawford's relatives and their attorneys say he posed no threat and have disputed Ritchie's description of Crawford's actions.
The two officers and at least one other witness recalled the commands in different wording, something like "Drop your weapon!" That witness estimated the gunshots came five to 10 seconds later.
A grand jury concluded the shooting was justified, and the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the case.
One aspect the family wants reviewed is whether race was a factor. Crawford was black, and the officers are white.
Find Kantele Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 .
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