The police officer who shot dead a young black man in a Walmart store in Ohio as he held an unloaded BB rifle had less than two weeks earlier received what prosecutors called a “pep talk” on how to deal aggressively with suspected gunmen.
Sean Williams and his colleagues in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton, were shown a slideshow invoking their loved ones and the massacres at Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech while being trained on 23-24 July on confronting “active shooter situations”.
“If not you, then who?” officers were asked by the presentation, alongside a photograph of young students being led out of Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012. A caption reminded the trainees that 20 children and five adults were killed before police arrived.
Williams shot dead John Crawford III 12 days later, after a 911 caller repeatedly said that Crawford was pointing a gun at Walmart customers, including children. Surveillance footage released on Thursday showed Crawford passing shoppers with the air rifle at his side.
Again, these incidents are not isolated. They are cultural within police departments.