Say Their Name: The Story of John H. Crawford III
Disclaimer: In our exclusive series, Say Their Name, DCP Entertainment takes a deeper look into the impact of the assault and killing of unarmed Black people by the police and in ‘Stand Your Ground’ states. We share the stories of families who have been negatively impacted by these situations, as well as memorialize the lives of the individuals who were victimized.. We did not talk to officers or governing bodies—just the families and their support systems. We are not the court of law, nor do we try to be. For legal purposes we are not here to presume guilt or innocence for anyone, because, quite frankly, we do not want to be sued. We simply want to give the families a voice while examining what happens when the hashtags stop and the news unfortunately moves on to the next big story. All we want is to give the families the opportunity to control their narrative and share ways we can all help. While also raising money for the families highlighted in the series.
Note: To avoid confusion, we will refer to John Crawford III as “John” and his father as “John Jr.” throughout this article.
“He was an outdoors kid…He played almost every sport. He did the hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, football.” That’s how his mom, Tressa Sherrod, remembers her energetic son, John H. Crawford III.
Tressa met John’s dad, John Crawford Jr., through his god-brother. John Jr. was studying sociology and criminal justice at Kentucky State University, and Tressa was working in Cincinnati.
Although he came as a surprise, it wasn’t long before John Crawford III made his debut appearance. He was born at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati on July 29th, 1992.
John grew up in Cincinnati around his extended family and was fiercely protective of those he loved. His parents describe him as an athletic, fearless kid who didn’t let anyone push him around.
“He excelled in football when he was growing up,” says John Jr. “He played for the Hilltop. He played city league when he was five. And then as he got older, of course he got better and better. And so we had all of these academies and private schools wanting him to play.”
Growing up, John spent lots of time with cousins, aunts, and uncles.
“He had a few nicknames, and it was crazy, he’d answer, respond to all of them… Mr. Green Jeans, Trey, Runice,” says John’s aunt, Sharon Brown.
John was a restless teenager. He struggled through his senior year but eventually got his high school diploma. His cousin, Brandon Sherrod, remembers how the two connected around music as young adults.
“Our favorite artist was Project Pat,” said Brandon. “We probably played the same song about a hundred times a day.”
Brandon said John had dreams of becoming a rapper—but appreciated all kinds of music. “His openness to music, it was very wide,” says Brandon. “We listened to rock, a lot of R&B, but he definitely had an ear for music.”
At the age of 20 and then again at 21, John had two sons of his own. He completed a program to get his high school diploma and was planning the next phase of his life.
“He was in a good place. He was proud of himself. He was ready to go, at that time, he was on his way,” says John Jr. “I said, ‘Okay, now you can go to college.’ I said, ‘We’re going to get you prep.’ And actually, he was getting ready to go to Kentucky State.”
On July 29th, 2014, John celebrated his birthday with his dad at a local bar.
“We drank some beer and we played pool, and we hugged and kissed each other,” says John Jr. “I had the best time with my son, man. We really kicked it.”
Exactly one week after celebrating his 22nd birthday with his father and one week before finalizing his enrollment at his father’s alma mater, John Crawford III was killed by Ohio police.
The date was August 5th, 2014. John and his new girlfriend Tasha Thomas decided to go to Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. While shopping, John picked up an unpackaged rifle-style toy BB gun. He was holding it at his side while talking on his cell phone with LeeCee, the mother of his children.
“Well, my understanding [is] the police, they received a 911 call saying that there was a black male, six foot tall or taller, angry, pointing a gun at women and children looking like he’s ready to go in the Walmart,” says John Jr.
Another Walmart shopper, Ronald Ritchie, called 911 claiming Crawford had been pointing the gun at fellow customers (security camera footage revealed that John never pointed or waved the toy gun at anyone).
Two Beavercreek police officers, Sergeant David Darko and officer Sean Williams, arrived at the Walmart shortly after getting the call about a “subject with a gun” in the pet supplies area of the store.
“So, [Darko and Williams] entered the Walmart guns drawn. And they stopped two patrons and they asked, ‘Where’s this guy that’s holding up the women and children with the rifle?’ And [the patrons] basically said, ‘What are you talking about?... Sir, ain’t nobody holding up nobody,’” says John Jr.
The officers searched every aisle until they found John. While Sergeant Darko tried to get John’s attention, officer Williams moved around him and, within seconds, shot John from 16 feet away.