Gun enthusiasts openly carried firearms Sunday into an Ohio Walmart store where police fatally shot a black man holding a toy rifle.
About 40 open-carry activists protested the Aug. 5 police shooting of 22-year-old John Crawford III at the Beavercreek retailer after a grand jury declined last month to charge the officer who killed him.
In addition to weapons, the demonstrators carried signs that said “I am John Crawford” and “Serve and Protect. Not Serve to Kill.”
Another shopper, Ronald Ritchie, spotted Crawford carrying the unboxed air pellet rifle and called 911 to report a possible threat.
Ritchie told dispatchers Crawford was pointing the weapon at shoppers, but after viewing surveillance video with prosecutors, he claimed the slain man had merely been waving the gun around.
The open carry of firearms is legal in Ohio, and the demonstrators said they wanted to remind police and residents of the law.
“The whole point of this is to be a peaceful protest and educate people that Ohio is an open-carry state, and a man was killed while open-carrying a gun inside the Walmart,” said one protester who asked to remain anonymous.
A Facebook page promoting the rally asked participants to bring their favorite weapon but urged them not to chamber any rounds to “to minimize risk of accidental discharge and maximize safety.”
The fatal shooting is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.