AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A Black man was unarmed when Akron police chased him on foot and killed him in a hail of bullets, but officers believed he shot at them earlier from a vehicle and feared he was preparing to fire again, authorities said.
Akron police released video Sunday of the pursuit and killing of Jayland Walker, 25. The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while pleading for peace and patience from the community.
A city ordinance adopted last year requires the city to release video of an incident involving a police officer’s use of deadly force against a person or use of force resulting in serious bodily injury to a person, within seven days of the incident.
It was not yet clear how many shots were fired by the eight officers who were involved in the shooting, but Walker sustained more than 60 wounds. An attorney for Walker’s family said Walker was on the ground while officers continued to fire.
Demonstrators marched through the city and gathered in front of the Akron justice center after the video was released. Derrick Johnson, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president, said in a statement that Walker’s death “was murder. Point blank.”
Lebron James tweeted out that he is keeping the city in his thoughts.
Officers attempted to stop Walker’s car early Monday for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but less than a minute into a pursuit the sound of a shot was heard from the car and a transportation department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle 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.
A few minutes later, the car slowed and Walker emerged from the still-moving vehicle wearing a ski mask and fled on foot, police said. A handgun, a loaded magazine and a wedding ring were found on the seat; a casing consistent with the weapon was later found at the point where officers said they believed a shot came from the vehicle.
After an unsuccessful attempt to use stun devices, the foot chase continued to a parking lot, at which point a crescendo of bullets can be heard in the body camera footage.
Mylett said he has watched the video dozens of times. Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to distinguish, but a still photo seems to show him “going down to his waist area” and another appears to show him turning toward an officer. He said a third picture “captures a forward motion of his arm.”
“Each officer, independent of each other, related that they felt that Mr. Walker had turned and was motioning and moving into a firing position,” he said.
Mylett said an officer firing at someone has to be “ready to explain why they did what they did, they need to be able to articulate what specific threats they were facing ... and they need to be held to account.” But he said he is withholding judgment on their actions until they give their statements, and Mylett said the union president told him that all are “fully cooperating” with the investigation.
Police said more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body but further investigation will be needed to determine exactly how many rounds the eight officers fired and how many times Walker was hit. Officers provided aid, and one can be heard on the body camera footage saying he still had a pulse, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, Mylett said.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost vowed a “complete, fair and expert investigation” and cautioned that “body-worn camera footage is just one view of the whole picture.”
Akron officials announced on June 28 that the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation had been contacted. Officials requested BCI begin an independent investigation of the incident. The investigation is ongoing.
Yost said the investigative file will be made available to the public following the conclusion of the case. To view prior officer-involved critical incidents investigations, visit the Attorney General's website.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases.
“I am urging the public to do one of the most difficult things I can ask, and that is to be patient and let the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation do their work," said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan in a news release. "It's my commitment to be as open and transparent as we can be, given that there is an ongoing independent investigation. I trust that investigation to be fair, thorough, and just.”
Walker’s family is calling for accountability, but also for peace, their lawyers said after the city released video of the shooting. One of the attorneys, Bobby DiCello, said police handcuffed Walker before trying to provide first aid.
“How it got to this with a pursuit is beyond me,” DiCello said, adding that Walker’s family doesn’t know why he fled from police. Walker was grieving the recent death of his fiancee, but his family had no indication of concern beyond that, DiCello said.
“He wasn’t a criminal,” DiCello said. “He obviously was in pain. He didn’t deserve to die.”
DiCello called the burst of police gunfire excessive and unreasonable. “I hope we remember that as Jayland ran across that parking lot, he was unarmed,” DiCello said. He said he doesn’t know if the ring found near the gun belonged to Walker.
Akron also released a map of the pursuit, a timeline of the incident, a transcript of the dispatch conversation during the pursuit, a description of the investigatory process and basic information on the officers involved including race, gender, years of service and disciplinary record.
To view this information, click here.