Protests in US after video shows Akron police killing Black man in hail of gunfire

AKRON, Ohio — Several hundred protesters marched Sunday in Akron, Ohio after the release of body camera footage that showed police fatally shooting a Black man with several dozen rounds of bullets.

As anger rose over the latest police killing of a Black man in the United States, and authorities appealed for calm, a crowd marched to City Hall carrying banners with slogans such as “Justice for Jayland.”

The slogan refers to Jayland Walker, 25, who was killed on Monday after officers tried to stop his car over a traffic violation, police said.

Sunday marked the fourth straight day of protests. Demonstrations were peaceful but for a tense moment in which some protesters got close to a line of police and shouted at them.

After the first rally, a crowd of people remained in the street protesting as evening fell but it was in a less organized fashion. There were no reports of violence.

But fearing unrest, authorities in the city of 190,000 people moved snowplows and other heavy equipment near the police department to serve as a barrier.

Demonstrators make gestures at a police vehicle as they gather outside Akron City Hall to protest the killing of Jayland Walker, shot by police, in Akron, Ohio, July 3, 2022. (Matthew Hatcher / AFP)

After initially providing few details of the shooting, Akron authorities released two videos Sunday: one that was a compilation of body-camera footage, body-cam still frames and voiceover, and another of the complete body-cam footage of the entire chase and shooting.

The voiceover explained that Walker did not stop and drove off. Police engaged in a car chase and said a shot had been fired from Walker’s vehicle.

After being chased for several minutes, Walker got out of his car while it was still moving and fled on foot. Officers tried to subdue him with their tasers, but he kept running.

Several officers finally chased Walker to a parking lot. The body-cam footage is too blurry to see clearly what happens, but an initial police statement released after the shooting says he behaved in a way that caused officers to believe he posed a “deadly threat.”

The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while pleading for peace and patience from the community.

‘Over 60 wounds’ to body

All of the officers at the scene opened fire on Walker, shooting multiple times in rapid succession.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police chief Steve Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to distinguish on the video in real time, 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.”

The officers were separated at the scene afterward, and each one indicated a belief that Walker had been moving into a firing position, Mylett said.

The footage released by police ends with the officers’ gunfire and doesn’t show what happened in the moments after.

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 he said the union president has told him that all are “fully cooperating” with the investigation.

The incident was the latest death of an African-American citizen at the hands of police, events that have sparked mass protests over racism and police brutality.

“Many will wish to air their grievances in public, and I fully support our residents’ right to peacefully assemble,” Akron mayor Dan Horrigan told a press conference, saying he was “heartbroken” over the events.

“But I hope the community can agree that violence and destruction are not the answer.”

He also said an independent investigation was being conducted.

Police 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. Officers provided aid, and one can be heard saying he still had a pulse, but he was pronounced dead, Mylett said.

A handgun, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring were found on the seat of the car. A casing consistent with the weapon was later found in the area where officers believed a shot had come from the vehicle.

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.”

Bobby DiCello, a lawyer for the Walker family, told The New York Times: “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.”

DiCello called the burst of police gunfire excessive and unreasonable, and said police handcuffed Walker before trying to provide first aid.

“How it got to this with a pursuit 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 fiancee, but his family had no indication of concern beyond that, and he wasn’t a criminal, DiCello said.

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

He said he doesn’t know whether the gold ring found near the gun in the car belonged to Walker.

Mylett said he didn’t know the exact number of bullets fired at Walker, but the medical examiner’s report “indicates over 60 wounds to Mr. Walker’s body.”

He added that the eight officers involved in Walker’s death have been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

Authorities canceled a festival planned for the July 4th weekend.

Basketball star LeBron James, an Akron native, said in a tweet Sunday he was praying for his city.


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