- A newly released video shows Ohio police aggressively interrogating the girlfriend of a young black man officers had shot and killed earlier in the day.
- A detective threatened Tasha Thomas, John Crawford's girlfriend, with jail time and suggested she was high during an interrogation that lasted more than 90 minutes.
- Throughout the questioning, Thomas can be heard pleading with the detective and swearing on the lives of her relatives that she didn't know Crawford had a gun.
Thomas likely didn't know Crawford picked up a gun until after his death
On August 5, police shot and killed Crawford at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, near Dayton, after receiving a 911 call that falsely indicated he was waving a real firearm at people. It turned out Crawford was carrying a toy gun, which looked like an assault rifle, that he picked up at the store.
Police then interrogated Crawford's girlfriend for more than 90 minutes before telling her Crawford was dead, the Guardian's Jon Swaine reported:
Tasha Thomas was reduced to swearing on the lives of her relatives that John Crawford III had not been carrying a firearm when they entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, to buy crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars on the evening of 5 August.
"You lie to me and you might be on your way to jail," detective Rodney Curd told Thomas, as she wept and repeatedly offered to take a lie-detector test. After more than an hour and a half of questioning and statement-taking, Curd finally told Thomas that Crawford, 22, had died.
Curd promptly asked Thomas whether she and Crawford had criminal records. Already tearful and breathless, Thomas explained that she may have had some traffic offences and had been arrested for petty theft as a juvenile.
The detective then became increasingly aggressive and banged on the table between them with his hand. "Tell me where he got the gun from," Curd repeated. Thomas insisted Crawford had been carrying only a white plastic grocery bag when they arrived at Walmart to buy the ingredients to make s'mores at a family cook-out.
Thomas likely never had the opportunity to know Crawford had a toy gun before he was shot and killed. Video footage shows Crawford picking up the fake firearm at a Walmart. In the footage, he never interacted with anyone else at the store as he walked through the store's aisles while talking on a cellphone — reportedly with the mother of his children, LeeCee Johnson. Officers shot and killed Crawford within seconds of arriving at the store.
Warning: Graphic footage of the shooting:
A grand jury on September 24 decided not to press charges against the officers who shot Crawford.
Police are more likely to kill black Americans
Crawford's shooting, like the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, have reinvigorated a nationwide discussion about racial disparities in the criminal justice system and police use of force.
Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be stopped, arrested, and killed by police, according to the available but limited FBI data. These racial disparities remain even in situations in which a shooting victim wasn't attacking anyone else. Some of these victims were instead killed while allegedly fleeing, committing a felony, or resisting arrest.
One of the causes of this disparity is what's known as implicit bias, or subconscious prejudices against people of certain races. Josh Correll, a University of Colorado at Boulder psychology professor, tested police implicit bias with a shooter video game.
Correll's findings showed police officers generally did a good job of avoiding shooting unarmed targets of all races, but, when shooting was warranted, officers pulled the trigger more quickly against black suspects than white ones. This suggests that officers exhibit some racial bias in how quickly they pull the trigger, but not when it comes to deciding whether to shoot a target.
Correll previously cautioned that these simulations aren't perfectly representative of the real world. If cops, as Correll's initial simulations suggest, tend to shoot black suspects more quickly, it's possible that could lead to even more errors in the field. "In the very situation in which [officers] most need their training," he said, "we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them."