AKRON, OH –
A black man was unarmed when Akron police chased him on foot, killing him in a hail of gunfire, but officers believed he had shot at them earlier from a vehicle and feared he was preparing to fire again, authorities said Thursday. Sunday at a press conference.
Akron police released video of the shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker, who was killed June 27 in a pursuit that began with an attempt to stop traffic. The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” and asked the community for patience.
It’s unclear how many shots were fired by the eight officers involved, but Walker suffered more than 60 injuries. An attorney for Walker’s family said officers continued to fire even after he was on the ground.
Officers attempted to stop Walker’s car around 12:30 a.m. for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but in less than a minute of pursuit, the sound of a gunshot was heard from the car and a department of transportation camera captured what appeared to be a cannon. flash coming from the vehicle, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said. That changed the nature of the case from “a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue,” he said.
Police body camera videos show what happened after the roughly six-minute chase. Several officers, shouting and with guns drawn, approach the car on foot as it brakes, as it drives over a curb and onto a sidewalk. A person in a ski mask climbs out the passenger door and runs into a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a flurry of gunfire that lasts 6-7 seconds.
At least one officer had first tried using a stun gun but was unsuccessful, police said.
Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to make out on the real-time video, but one still photo appears to show him “going down to the waist area” and another appears to show him turning toward an officer. He said a third image “captures a forward movement of his arm.”
In a statement shared with reporters Sunday, the local police union said officers thought there was an immediate threat of serious harm and that they believe their actions and number of shots will be justified based on their training and protocols. The union said officers are cooperating with the investigation.
Police said more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body, but more investigation is needed to determine exactly how many rounds officers fired and how many times Walker was hit.
The images released by the police end with the officers being shot and do not show what happened next. Officers rendered assistance, and one can be heard saying that Walker still had a pulse, but he was later pronounced dead, Mylett said.
The chief said an officer who shoots someone must be “ready to explain why he did what he did, he must be able to articulate what specific threats he was facing…and he must be held accountable.” But he said he is withholding judgment on his actions until his statement is made.
A pistol, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring were found in the car seat. A shell casing consistent with the gun was later found in the area where officers believed a shot from the vehicle had been fired.
State Attorney General Dave Yost promised a “full, fair and expert investigation” by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and warned that “body camera footage is just one view of the whole picture.”
Akron police are conducting a separate internal investigation into whether the officers violated department rules or policies.
The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases. Seven of them are white and one is black, according to the department. Their length of service with Akron police ranges from a year and a half to six years, and none of them have a history of discipline, substantiated complaints or fatal shootings, he said.
Protesters peacefully marched through the city and gathered outside the Akron Justice Center after the video was released. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that Walker’s death was not self-defense, but “was murder. Point-blank range.”
On Sunday night, police in riot gear fired a dozen tear gas canisters to disperse a handful of protesters outside the justice center, WKYC-TV reported.
Walker’s family asks for responsibility but also for peace, their attorneys said. One of the attorneys, Bobby DiCello, called the barrage of police gunfire excessive and unreasonable, saying police handcuffed Walker before attempting to give him first aid.
“How it came to this with a chase is beyond me,” DiCello said.
He said Walker’s family doesn’t know why he fled from police. Walker was grieving the recent death of his fiancée, but his family had no indication of concern beyond that, and he was not a criminal, DiCello said.
“I hope we remember that when Jayland ran across that parking lot, he was unarmed,” DiCello said.
He said he doesn’t know if the gold ring found near the gun in the car belonged to Walker.