Akron Police Officers Placed on Leave After Fatal Shooting of Jayland Walker

An unspecified number of police officers in Akron, Ohio, were placed on administrative leave after the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Black man who the police said continued to drive after they tried to pull him over for an unspecified traffic violation.

Officials in Akron were bracing for protests that could follow the release on Sunday of footage of the shooting, which took place after the driver, Jayland Walker, exited his vehicle and fled on foot to a parking lot early Monday morning.

A lawyer for the family of Mr. Walker said the footage shows that he was running away, unarmed, when police officers fired at him more than 90 times.

The lawyer, Bobby DiCello, reviewed footage of the shooting on Thursday. His legal team also visited the medical examiner’s office on Friday and reviewed the autopsy, which has not been finalized. Mr. DiCello said it showed that Mr. Walker had been struck at least 60 times.

The Summit County Medical Examiner could not immediately be reached on Saturday.

“I’ve been a trial lawyer for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to what that video is going to show,” Mr. DiCello said of the footage to be released. He said eight officers were involved in the shooting, though the authorities did not specify a number.

An initial police statement, which was released on Tuesday, said officers tried to stop Mr. Walker for an unspecified traffic violation while he was driving at around 12:30 a.m. After Mr. Walker did not stop, officers continued to pursue his vehicle, the police said.

The police said Mr. Walker discharged a gun while he was driving, but the statement did not specify how they knew that. After a few minutes, Mr. Walker slowed down his car and exited it while it was still moving; officers then chased him on foot into a parking lot, the police said.

The statement said officers opened fired after “actions by the suspect caused the officers to perceive he posed a deadly threat to them.”

Mr. DiCello said that he saw no evidence in the video of Mr. Walker moving in a way that would “put them in fear” or require them to shoot.

“I’ve met personally with the chief and he has told me that he hasn’t found that evidence,” Mr. DiCello said. He said that the police chief told him that moments before the shooting began, two officers tried to use stun guns on Mr. Walker and missed.

Mr. DiCello said that the parking lot Mr. Walker ran into was large, empty and did not have places for him to hide. He said Mr. Walker was not gesturing in a threatening way when the shooting began.

“Imagine a person running away and starting to turn to look back behind them as one is running and it’s at that point that the gunshots erupt,” Mr. DiCello said.

Mr. DiCello also raised questions about the police report’s narrative that Mr. Walker had fired a gun while driving away from officers.

“The rear windshield is intact, the front windshield is intact and all side windows are intact,” he said. “There’s no call, there’s no report that we’ve seen and there’s been no mention by the chief in personal discussions with him that a gun was seen outside the car, waving at or being pointed at anyone.”

Mr. Walker had an unspecified gun in the car, but he was not carrying that, or anything else, when police chased him on foot, Mr. DiCello said.

Mr. Walker had one traffic ticket and no criminal record. He graduated from Buchtel High School in Akron, where he was on the wrestling team. He was working as a driver for DoorDash and dreamed of one day opening his own business, Mr. DiCello said. About a month ago, his girlfriend died in a car accident.

At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Walker’s aunt, Lajuana Walker Dawkins, said “he never caused any trouble.”

“He was my skinny little nephew,” she said. “And we miss him. We just want some answers.”

Mr. DiCello said Mr. Walker’s sister, Jada Walker, and mother, Pamela Walker, chose not to watch the footage of the shooting. They have asked that it not be described to them and were avoiding news reports about it. They also asked for people to peacefully respond to Mr. Walker’s killing.

“The family wants no more violence,” Mr. DiCello said. “It’s had enough violence. The family wants peace, dignity and justice for Jayland.”

Ahead of the video’s release, the city braced for protests.

The mayor of Akron, Dan Horrigan, said on Thursday that a Fourth of July festival scheduled for the weekend had been canceled.

“Independence Day is meant to be a celebration and a time of gathering with friends and family,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I feel strongly that this is not the time for a city-led celebration.”

Members of the Akron Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are conducting an initial investigation of the shooting.

After that investigation is complete, the case will be turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for review. The Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards and Accountability is conducting a separate internal investigation.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Mr. Horrigan and the city’s police chief, Steve Mylett, said it was “a dark day for our city, for the families of those involved, as well as for the officers.”

“We will cooperate fully with that investigation and have made it a top priority for our staffs,” the statement said. “As a city, we are committed to this process and trust that it will yield a fuller understanding of this incident.”

Source: NYT > Top Stories

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