MATTHEW HATCHER/AFP via Getty Images
(AKRON, Ohio) — Ohio police officials released officer body-camera footage of a 25-year-old Black man killed in a hail of bullets fired by eight officers while he was unarmed and running away.
As Jayland Walker’s family has demanded answers about the circumstances of last week’s killing, which authorities said occurred following a police chase, large protests have erupted in Akron, Ohio, with demonstrators marching on the city’s police headquarters.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Police Chief Steve Mylett, during a news conference Sunday afternoon, joined the Walker family in calling for peaceful protests and for patience as the investigation continues in the man’s death.
“When an officer makes the most critical decision in his or her life as a police officer, it doesn’t matter where in the country this happens, when they make that most critical decision to point their firearm at another human being and pull the trigger, they’ve got to be ready to explain why they did what they did,” Mylett said Sunday. “They need to be able to articulate what specific threats they were facing, and that goes for every round that goes down the barrel of their gun.”
Mylett began the news conference by expressing his “deepest sympathies to Jayland’s family” and apologized for their loss.
“I cannot imagine the sense of loss, the pain they are going through right now,” Mylett said. “I want to personally thank you for the way in which you have been dealing with this situation. You have asked for peace in an environment that is rife for aggression and violence. If Jayland reflects the character of this family, which I continually heard that he did, you raised a good son.”
Before the body-camera footage was shown, Horrigan said he was “beyond outraged” at the situation, and told reporters that “the video you are about to watch is heartbreaking.”
Akron police officials said the fatal incident unfolded about 12:30 a.m. on June 27 in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood when officers attempted to pull over Walker for a traffic violation and an equipment violation with his car. Police said the driver allegedly refused to stop, setting off a chase that ended in his death.
Police officials played footage from two police body-camera videos, the first showing police pursuing Walker’s silver Buick onto Route 8 in Akron.
The video showed the Buick taking an onramp and a flash of light that Mylett said appeared to be the muzzle flash of a gun coming from the driver’s side of Walker’s car. Police officials also released freeze frames of the flash coming from the vehicle’s window.
A second body-camera video recorded officers radioing that they heard at least one shot being fired from Walker’s car. The video also shows the officer following the Buick off Route 8 and continuing the pursuit on side streets.
At one point, Walker slowed down and jumped out of the vehicle before it came to a full stop. The footage showed a man, who police said was Walker, exiting the car’s passenger side door wearing a ski mask.
Multiple officers are seen in the footage running after Walker, who appeared to look over his shoulder as officers fired their weapons at him.
Mylett said he has watched the video at least 40 times and said there are still photos showing Walker appear to reach for his waistband, turn toward the officers and move an arm forward.
Mylett said Walker’s face and body were blurred out in the video shown to the public at the request of the Walker family.
The chief said he is reserving further comment on the video and judgment on the incident until the Ohio Bureau of Investigation completes its probe.
In an earlier statement, Akron police officials said, the “actions by the suspect caused the officers to perceive he posed a deadly threat to them. In response to this threat, officers discharged their firearms, striking the suspect.”
Despite the shooting occurring seven days ago, Mylett said none of the officers have been interviewed by investigators. The chief said the police union president has assured him that all of the officers involved in the shooting will fully cooperate.
The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation being led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Following the news conference, Bobby DiCello, an attorney for Walker’s family, said the key fact of the case, which Mylett confirmed, is that Walker was unarmed when he was killed.
Mylett said while the video confirmed that Walker was unarmed when he was shot, he said the footage also captured a handgun with a separate loaded magazine and what appears to be a gold wedding band left on the driver’s seat of Walker’s car.
The body-camera videos were released in accordance with a city law passed last year requiring police body-camera footage be made public seven days after an officer’s use of force resulted in death or great bodily injury.
DiCello said the videos show Walker did not pose a threat to the officers when they fired more than 60 shots.
“You can see his hands as he is running on the video,” DiCello told ABC News’ Good Morning America after watching the video before it was made public.
He said the first two Akron police officers to engage Walker, deployed their stun guns. Mylett confirm that officers deployed Tasers, but they had no effect.
“Why do eight men shoot him, mostly from behind, as he’s running away?” DiCello told GMA of the troubling list of questions he has over the shooting.
DiCello said he saw no evidence in the video he reviewed of Walker posing a threat to the officers.
“Just sprinting away from these men, he is shot as he starts to turn and look over his shoulder,” DiCello said.
Walker’s aunt, LaJuana Dawkins, told GMA, “We’d like to know why he was shot down like a dog.”
DiCello said Sunday that Walker was saddened over the recent death of his girlfriend, but relatives told him they did not notice anything about his behavior that would have led them to believe he would allegedly lead police on a chase or shoot at officers.
DiCello accused Mylett of playing “armchair quarterback” during Sunday’s news conference without knowledge of all the facts.
“I’m disappointed. They want to turn him into a masked monster with a gun,” DiCello said. “He wasn’t a criminal, he was obviously in pain. He didn’t deserve to die.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost attempted to assure the public on Sunday that the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation “will conduct a complete, fair and expert investigation.”
“People want and deserve answers, and they shall have them,” Yost said in a statement. “Body-worn camera footage is just one view of the whole picture — before drawing conclusions, the full review must take place.”
He said the investigative file will be made public at the conclusion of the case and people will be able to review it online.
“The goal is the truth, and we need to talk to anyone who knows anything,” Yost said. “Silence will never produce justice.”
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