Police killing of Jayland Walker in US: What we know so far

Officials released police body camera footage of Walker, who is Black, being fatally shot by police in Akron, Ohio.

Demonstrators protest against the Akron police shooting death of Black man Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, the United States [File: Gaelen Morse/Reuters]

The US city of Akron, Ohio has declared a state of emergency and imposed an overnight curfew downtown after hundreds of protesters marched through the streets to denounce the police killing of a Black man.

Mayor Daniel Horrigan announced the 9pm-6am curfew in a statement on Monday, saying that peaceful protests demanding justice for Jayland Walker had escalated and led to “significant property damage”.

“In light of the damage that has occurred and in order to preserve peace in our community, I have declared a state of emergency, implemented a curfew and canceled the fireworks which were scheduled for tonight,” said Horrigan, adding the curfew would be in effect until further notice.

Demonstrators rallied on Sunday to call for justice for Walker, who was fatally shot by police last week in the Rust Belt city in another incident of deadly police violence against Black people in the United States.

It was the fourth – and largest – protest in as many days, and came hours after body camera footage of Walker’s killing was released, showing police firing dozens of shots as they pursued the 25-year-old after he fled a traffic stop.

Police have said Walker posed a deadly threat to officers.

But advocates say the killing was unjustified, with Derrick Johnson, president of the influential US civil rights group National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), calling it: “Murder. Point blank.”

Demonstrators protest against the Akron police shooting death of Black man Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio [Gaelen Morse/Reuters]

Here’s what we know so far:

What police have said?

Walker was fatally shot by police in a parking lot in the early morning of June 27.

Police said in a statement released the next day that officers had attempted to stop Walker’s car at about 12:30am (04:30 GMT) for an unspecified traffic violation. They said Walker refused to stop and they pursued him onto a highway.

“During the pursuit, officers reported a firearm being discharged from the suspect vehicle,” the statement said.

After several minutes, the car slowed down and Walker fled on foot and police chased him into a nearby parking lot.

“Actions by the suspect caused the officers to perceive he posed a deadly threat to them,” the statement said. “In response to this threat, officers discharged their firearms, striking the suspect.”

Walker died at the scene.

At a press conference on Sunday, Police Chief Steve Mylett said more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body but further investigation is needed to determine exactly how many rounds the officers fired and how many times Walker was hit.

What does the body camera footage show?

Body camera footage released on Sunday shows the moment Walker fled the vehicle. After about a 10-second chase, police open fire, shooting dozens of rounds at Walker, whose back appears to be towards them. The shooting continues while Walker is on the ground, until an officer is heard telling the others to cease fire.

In the footage, it is difficult to make out Walker’s actions as he fled, but Mylett said a series of still photos released by the department appear to show him “going down to his waist area”. He said another photo shows him turning toward an officer and a third “captures a forward motion of his arm”.

The police department also released traffic footage it said shows an alleged muzzle flash from Walker’s vehicle during the car chase. Police said they recovered a handgun, a loaded magazine, and what appeared to be a wedding ring on the seat of the car.

Jayland Walker
Lawyer Bobby DiCello holds up a photograph of Jayland Walker [Reuters]

What have lawyers for Walker’s family said?

A lawyer representing Walker’s family has criticised officers for opening fire while Walker’s back was turned.

Lawyer Bobby DiCello called the burst of police gunfire excessive and unreasonable and alleged that officers handcuffed Walker before trying to provide aid.

“How it got to this with a pursuit is beyond me,” DiCello said on Sunday.

He stressed that Walker was unarmed when he fled from the vehicle and at the time he was shot.

“I hope we remember that as Jayland ran across that parking lot, he was unarmed,” DiCello said.

He also said he was “very concerned” over the accusation Walker had shot at police earlier. On Saturday, DiCello had questioned the evidence authorities said showed Walker had fired.

Calls for justice

Protests have continued in Akron, a city and surrounding area with a population of 700,000 people, since Thursday, with Walker’s family calling for justice, but also peaceful demonstrations.

Several hundred protesters marched to city hall on Sunday in a mostly peaceful demonstration. Late into the night, some of those gathered lit fires near a police barricade outside of police headquarters. Police later used tear gas on protesters.

Akron Mayor Horrigan called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking for patience from the community.

Family, speaking through representatives, have said Walker was not a criminal. They noted he was grieving the death of his fiancee in a car accident in May, but had not shown any concerning behaviour.

The NAACP’s Johnson, meanwhile, said race factored into the killing.

“This Black man was killed … for a possible traffic violation,” he said in a statement.

“This doesn’t happen to white people in America,” he added, also slamming the police department’s response.

Demonstrators face troopers in riot gear as police deploy tear gas and stun grenades to clear the area around Akron City Hall and the Akron Police Department during a protest over the killing of Jayland Walker [Matthew Hatcher/AFP]

Speaking to the Akron Beacon Journal, Robert Hubbard, who coached Walker in wrestling for four years at Buchtel High School, remembered him as “one of the sweetest, most mannerable kids I’ve ever had”.

“He wasn’t what they were describing on that news stories … no, that’s not the kid I know,” he said.

A group of Black elected officials in Summit County, which includes Akron, have called for the US Department of Justice to investigate the killing, saying “we are extremely exhausted by the continued playing out of Black men and women being gunned down at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve”.

Federal authorities typically intervene in investigations if there is a question of an individual’s civil liberties being violated.

The probe is currently being handled by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Akron police are conducting a separate internal investigation about whether the officers violated department rules or policies.

The eight officers involved were placed on administrative leave, the police department said a day after the killing.

Source: Al Jazeera