At least 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon outside the Beavercreek Walmart store where John Crawford III was shot and killed by a police officer three years ago.
The rally on Pentagon Boulevard, organized by the group Black Lives Matter Miami Valley, drew honks of support as well as shouted insults from passing cars.
Crawford's father was among the featured speakers. The rally also included a drum circle and a moment of silence, as Crawford's parents released 25 balloons in commemoration of what would have been their son's 25th birthday the previous Saturday.
Protester Cheryl Smith says it's important to continue to remember the day Crawford died inside the Walmart store.
“The murder of John Crawford has been categorized as an unfortunate accident and a mistake, when actually it was flat-out murder,” Smith says. “And we will never let his name die. We will let his sons know that their father died and became a hero of a cause.”
Rally organizer Yolanda Simpson says it was emotional for her to see Crawford's parents at the event. She says it's a reminder of a painful day for many people in the community.
"What I love to see is John Crawford's father here, his mother here and various other people that are still trying to fight for justice for him,” Simpson says. “If it only means that we come together and memorialize him and keep his memory alive, then for me that’s great as well.”
Crawford, a 22-year-old African-American man, was shot and killed by white Beavercreek Police officer Sean Williams on Aug. 5, 2014.
Officers had responded to 911 reports of a man waving a firearm, which was later determined to be an air rifle Crawford had picked up from a store shelf.
Justice Department officials recently closed its investigation into the case, citing insufficient evidence to pursue civil rights charges.
State authorities also closed their investigations into the shooting.
No charges have been filed. Officer Williams recently returned to full duty.
The Beavercreek Police Department has maintained officers followed accepted law-enforcement protocol during the Crawford incident.
The Crawford family has filed a civil suit against Beavercreek police and Walmart Stores, alleging negligence and civil rights violations. A family attorney says the case could go to trial early next year.
The city of Beavercreek and Walmart have both denied the allegations in the suit.