AKRON, Ohio — A black man was unarmed when Akron police chased him on foot and killed him in a hail of gunfire, but officers believed he had previously shot at them from a vehicle and feared he was preparing to fire again authorities said at a press conference on Sunday.
Akron police released video of the shooting of Jayland Walker, 25, who was killed on June 27 in a chase that started with an attempted traffic stop. The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” and asked the community for patience.
It’s not clear how many shots were fired by the eight officers involved, but Walker suffered more than 60 injuries. A lawyer for Walker’s family said officers continued to fire even after he lay on the ground.
Officers attempted to stop Walker’s car around 12:30 p.m. for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but less than a minute into the chase, the sound of a gunshot was heard from the car and a transportation department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle flash coming from the vehicle, said Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett. That changed the nature of the case from “a routine traffic stop to now a public safety problem,” he said.
Police CCTV footage shows what happened after the approximately six-minute chase. Several yelling officers with guns drawn approach the slowing car on foot as it rolls over a curb and onto a sidewalk. A person in a ski mask exits the passenger door and runs to a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a series of shots lasting 6 or 7 seconds.
At least one officer had first tried to use a tranquilizer gun, but was unsuccessful, police said.
Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to discern on the video in real time, but one photo appears to have him “go down to his waist” and another appears to show him turning to an officer. He said a third photo “captures a forward movement of his arm.”
In a statement shared with reporters on Sunday, the local police union said the officers believed there was an imminent threat of serious injury and believe their actions and the number of shots fired will be justified in accordance with their training and protocols. . The union said the officers are cooperating with the investigation.
Police said more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body, but further investigation is needed to determine exactly how many bullets the officers fired and how many times Walker was hit.
The footage released by the police ends with gunfire from the officers and does not show what happened next. Officers rushed to the rescue, and Walker can be heard to still have a heartbeat, but he was later pronounced dead, Mylett said.
The chief said an officer firing at someone “must be ready to explain why they did what they did, they should be able to articulate the specific threats they faced…and they should be held accountable.” But he said he will withhold judgment on their actions until they make their statements.
A handgun, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring were found on the seat of the car. A casing matching the weapon was later found in the area where officers believed a gunshot had come from the vehicle.
Attorney General Dave Yost promised a “complete, fair and expert investigation” by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and warned that “body-worn camera images are just one representation of the whole picture.”
The Akron Police Department is 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 customary in such cases. Seven of them are white and one is black, according to the department. Their tenure with the Akron Police Department ranges from one and a half to six years, and none of them have a track record of discipline, well-founded complaints or fatal shootings, it said.
Protesters peacefully marched through town and gathered outside the Akron courthouse 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.”
Walker’s family calls for responsibility, but also for peace, their lawyers said. One of the attorneys, Bobby DiCello, called the burst of police gunfire excessive and unreasonable, and said police handcuffed Walker before attempting to administer first aid.
“How it got to this point with a car chase is beyond me,” said DiCello.
He said Walker’s family don’t know why he fled the police. Walker mourned the recent death of his fiancée, but his family was not concerned beyond that, and he was not a criminal, DiCello said.
“I hope we remember when Jayland ran across that parking lot, he was unarmed,” DiCello said.
He said he doesn’t know if the gold ring found in the car with the gun belonged to Walker.
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