The Ohio Wal-Mart where a young black man was shot and killed by police while holding a pellet gun is no longer selling the specific assault rifle-style model the man was holding and has taken all the air-powered guns off its shelves.
On Aug. 5, two police officers responded to a 911 caller's report that a man with a rifle was pointing the weapon at shoppers inside a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart. Beavercreek Police later said that one of the officers shot 22-year-old John Crawford III after he failed to respond to calls to drop his weapon. Crawford III was later found to be carrying a pellet gun that he had picked up in the sporting goods section of the store, and surveillance video showed he was talking on his cellphone when the first shot hit him.
The pellet gun that Crawford III picked up, the Crosman MK-177, is designed to look like an AR-15. One of the officers who responded to the call said he believed Crawford III was carrying “a black assault rifle.”
The owner's manual for the rifle says, "Do not brandish or display this air rifle in public ... Police and others may think it's a firearm."
Customers at the Beavercreek Wal-Mart can still buy pellet guns, but they will not be displayed. "If customers ask to purchase a pellet gun," said Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick, "an associate will help them with it."
However, said Nick, the Crosman air rifle that Crawford III picked up is now "out of stock" at the Beavercreek store and customers who ask for it will be told it is "not available." He said a decision about whether it would be permanently discontinued at the Beavercreek location is up to the store.
Nick said the decision to remove air rifles from the shelves was specific to the Beavercreek store and not company-wide, and the Crosman pellet gun will still be sold at those Wal-Mart stores across the country that choose to carry it.
The Beavercreek store also continues to sell real firearms.
An attorney for Crawford III’s family told NBC News that the pellet guns should have been removed from shelves long ago.
"If this was done a long long time ago," said Michael Wright, "Mr. Crawford might still be alive. If these air guns are indistinguishable from real guns, then they definitely should not have been sitting on the shelves."
On Sept. 27, a local grand jury voted not to indict the white officer who shot Crawford III. Immediately after the grand jury’s decision was made public, the Justice Department announced an investigation into Crawford III’s death.
Wright said the family is considering filing suit against the city and Wal-Mart, but has not yet made a decision.
-- Lisa Riordan Seville