When Ronald Ritchie called 911 from the aisles of a Walmart in western Ohio last month to report that a black man was "walking around with a gun in the store", he said that shoppers were coming under direct threat.
"He's, like, pointing it at people," Ritchie told the dispatcher. Later that evening, after John Crawford III had been shot dead by one of the police officers who hurried to the scene in Beavercreek, Ritchie repeated to reporters: "He was pointing at people. Children walking by."
One month later, Ritchie puts it differently. "At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody," the 24-year-old said, in an interview with the Guardian. He maintained that Crawford was "waving it around", which attorneys for Crawford's family deny.
Ritchie told several reporters after the 5 August shooting that he was an "ex-marine". When confronted with his seven-week service record, however, he confirmed that he had been quickly thrown out of the US marine corps in 2008 after being declared a "fraudulent enlistment", over what he maintains was simply a mixup over his paperwork.
Crawford, 22, turned out to be holding an unloaded BB air rifle that he had picked up from a store shelf. After Ritchie said Crawford appeared to be "trying to load" the gun, the 911 dispatcher relayed to an officer that it was believed the gunman "just put some bullets inside".
The Crawfords' attorneys told the Guardian that they had learned the preliminary findings of an autopsy were that he was shot in the back of his left arm and in his left side, supporting their claim that he was turned away from the police officer who shot him.
"It was an execution, no doubt about it," alleged Crawford's father, John Crawford II. "It was flat-out murder. And when you see the footage, it will illustrate that."