Consequently, in the high court of God our only escape from His just judgment for our sins is for us to place our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who - though He was sinless - laid down His own life for His sheep, so that those who believe in Him will have life eternal (Jn. 10:11, 20:30-31).
But regarding the court of humanity, the lives of John Crawford III and Angela Williams, were innocent and not deserving of death. And I think it is important to remember this fact that two innocent lives were ended in this tragedy.
The reason I regard this a tragedy is because they simply did not deserve to die. And yet one of them was shot and killed on sight, while the other, suffering from a heart condition aggravated by the events, died as a result of the shooting.
It is in times like these where we cannot simply dismiss the events as a tragic loss and move on with our lives. Innocent people were killed. The whole community, along with the families of John and Angela, are, or should be, crying out, "Where is justice?"
Justice should be accomplished in this situation - as it should in all situations. So it's no wonder we are, or should be, asking about and demanding the presence of justice right here and now. Of course, in order to do that, we must first define what justice is. For only then can we know what justice demands.
What, then, is justice?
We live in a fallen world and recognize there will be times when things happen that are simply - from our perspective - unfair (Eccles. 8:14). At the same time God has not left us alone in regards to understanding how to go about seeking and enacting justice when we can. He has given us great revelation in the area of just laws and just recompense when those laws are broken.
As I've stated elsewhere, justice applied to the civil and social realm is the civil magistrate (the government) applying the same objective, universally binding laws on all of society - regardless of ethnicity, wealth, socio-political status, or anything else that shows partiality. These objective, universally binding laws can be found only from the One who by His mere nature and being defines evil, good, and justice - the Christian God (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4; Job 8:3, 34:10; Isa. 5:20; cf. Ps. 51:4).
So in that regard, where is justice in this situation and how can it be accomplished?
Regarding Police Brutality
First of all, I'm opposed to the idea that this is merely a case of police brutality (I'll get to that further down). However, I don't think that the police officer who shot John Crawford III should be absolved of all charges. If he did something wrong, he ought to answer for it.
From the video footage (and the autopsy report), it appears John was shot from behind (or the side). It also appears from the video footage that there was no warning given. The statement of the shooting police officer says he was warned multiple times. And we need to take that into account. However, the video footage doesn't appear to show a warning given at all, neither does it appear to show that John had in any way moved in an aggressive manner toward either of the police officers (or anyone for that matter).
If that's the case - then some more digging needs to be done regarding the police officer's just recompense for the killing of John Crawford III (and the subsequent death of Angela Williams). Just because someone kills a man does not instantly make him a murderer. The Bible is clear to distinguish between accidental homicide and premeditated murder (Num. 35:22-24).
I am very concerned that that even if warnings were given, that the next step for the police officer was to shoot to kill - especially in light of the fact that (a) Ohio is by law an open carry state, (b) it was a pellet gun, and (c) John was not, nor had ever been, pointing the gun at anyone. From the released video footage, John Crawford had pointed the gun at no one, not even the police officers. So even if it was a "real" gun, he wasn't breaking any laws by having it out in the open (and not pointing it at anyone) at a store that does not prohibit firearms.
Consequently even if warnings were given, there was no real threat to anyone - including the police officers - which means there was no legitimate right to shoot, especially to shoot to kill.(1)
However, what was the police officer thinking when he did shoot? He certainly didn't have access to the video footage that we now have available to us. He did not witness John from the beginning of the scenario. What he did know (or "know" as far as he was concerned) was that there was a man in Walmart, waving a gun around, and having loaded it, was pointing it at people - even pointing it at children.
Why did the police officer think this?
Regarding the 9-1-1 Caller
Based on the 9-1-1 call being synced with the video footage, the police officer was given very, very false information. He was told lies. In Biblical language, as far as we can tell from the call and the video footage, the 9-1-1 caller bore false witness against his neighbor (Ex. 20:16, 23:1).
The 9-1-1 caller, Ronald Ritchie, was apparently the only one that night who had called 9-1-1 to report a "6 foot tall back man waving a gun around and pointing it at people." If that had truly been the case, it's hard to believe no one else in the store would have called 9-1-1 to report the same thing.
And that's just the thing. That was not the case. John Crawford III was not "waving the gun around." He was maybe swinging it causally as he spoke on the phone. But he was not waving it - certainly not in a threatening way. (As a matter of fact, in the video footage you'll even see a mom and her two kids walk by and linger for a while - they obviously felt no threat at all.)
After telling the dispatcher that John was "waving the gun around" and "pointing it at people," he then goes on to say that John began to load the gun. Then, he proceeds to tell the dispatcher that John was pointing the gun at two children.
Of all the terrible false reports to spread, I cannot imagine for the life of me why Ronald would have said such a thing. Surely one thing to get people panicked is to say that a man is pointing a loaded gun at children!
Even in making the terrible and irresponsible decision to shoot John Crawford III, I wonder if had the 9-1-1 caller not given such false information, would the police officer been as prone to commit that grossly negligent act? From everything we can make of the video footage synced with the 9-1-1 call, this was a clear fabrication, a lie, a false report.
John was not waving the gun around. He never loaded it. And he never came close to pointing it at any children. While the police officer administered the shot that killed John, it would have never happened had these absolute lies not been reported as an emergency. And if justice is to be ensured, the man responsible for bearing false witness against his neighbor also ought to be brought forth to give an account for what he did and why.
In other words, along with the officers involved, Ronald Ritchie needs to be brought before a court for the deaths of John Crawford III and Angela Williams.(2) For if he had not blatantly lied to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, neither of them would have died so unjustly that night.
Will there be justice?
The Bible gives us a solution when someone bears false witness against his neighbor in a manner like this. Whatever he's accusing his neighbor of falsely - he will receive the sentence that a genuine offender of that crime would receive (Deut. 19:18-19).
In other words, if a man falsely (that is, maliciously, not ignorantly) accuses a man of murder, if he is found to be lying in his accusation, he will receive the penalty for murder, which according to God is death (Ex. 21:12).
Am I saying Ronald Ritchie should receive the death sentence. By no means! There is no justice in enforcing laws ex post facto. And as far as I know, Ohio does not have a malicious witness law (regardless of how just such a law may be) that would allow for something like that.
On the other hand, it is not fair for someone who tells blatant lies, which end up killing two innocent people, to get away with it. He needs to be tried for the necessary crimes he committed according to Ohio law, which at this point I think would be the charge of Inducing Panic.
Will there be justice for the lives of John Crawford III and Angela Williams?
I think for there to be justice for them we need to start by evaluating whether or not the police officer had the reasonable right to shoot John (which, according to the visible evidence produced so far - he did not). Separate from that, and even regardless of that outcome, we have to pursue what was behind it all - a false witness.
Will there be justice for future generations?
To that I say, the more we align our laws and courts with the wisdom given us in God's revelation, the more justice we will have in our society.
May God grant us repentance for not pursuing justice as we ought - what He defines as justice. And may He grant us the strength to pursue justice in our laws, in our courts, and in our executive powers. May he give peace to the families of John Crawford III and Angela Williams. And may He grant us peace in our communities as we seek Him.
(1) While I do want to recognize that a tense situation (based on the information he was given) can make many of us do things we might think we'd never do, on the other hand, his vocation and training is to protect innocent people, not kill them. And we need to bear that in mind.
(2) I think it's clear that regardless of what angle Ronald Ritchie saw the events that we see on the video footage, he was inducing unnecessary panic at the very least. If he couldn't see for sure if John was pointing the gun at people, then that's what he should have told the 9-1-1 dispatcher - that he didn't know for sure, not that "He's pointing it at people...He just pointed it at two children." As a result of his false report - two innocent victims were killed.
I'm a sinner saved by God's amazing grace through the the precious blood of Jesus Christ and the glorious quickening of the Holy Spirit.
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