The city of Akron, Ohio, is on edge this Fourth of July, one week after the fatal police shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker.
A news conference by city officials Sunday, along with the release of 13 police body camera videos, has started to paint a fuller picture of the shooting, which police say happened when Walker, who is Black, fled an attempted traffic stop early June 27.
Walker was unarmed at the time he was killed, Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett told reporters. A gun was found in Walker’s vehicle after the shooting, police said, and officers said Walker fired a gun from his vehicle during the car chase.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew for Monday night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to a statement on the city’s website, “in order to preserve peace in our community.” A planned Fourth of July fireworks show has been canceled.
Protests Sunday started peacefully, but that changed after night fell, Horrigan said in a statement, adding there was “significant property damage done to downtown Akron.”
Police said they arrested around 50 people after dozens of protesters failed to disperse from the downtown area.
While the majority were peaceful, a group of “violent protesters” caused substantial property damage to nearby businesses, restaurants and residential structures, shattering windows and lighting small fires, according to a news release from the Akron Police Department.
Police initially provided verbal instructions to the protesters, offering “a reasonable amount of time to comply,” according to the release, but later deployed a “chemical irritant to prevent further rioting and property damage.”
Many questions about Walker’s death remain unanswered, and an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is ongoing, but here’s a breakdown of what we know so far.
What police say happened
Walker was killed in a burst of gunfire early last Monday, following a vehicle pursuit and foot chase that started when officers tried to stop him for traffic and equipment violations.
Walker fled the stop, according to a narrated video timeline police played at Sunday’s news conference, and officers gave chase.
About 40 seconds after the start of the pursuit, the narrated video says, “a sound consistent with a gunshot can be heard” in body camera footage, and the officers told dispatch that a gunshot had been fired from Walker’s vehicle. Police also showed still images taken from traffic cameras that showed “a flash of light” – perhaps a muzzle flash – along the driver’s side of the car.
“That changes the whole nature” of the incident, Mylett said, turning a “routine traffic stop” into a “public safety issue.”
After several minutes, Walker’s vehicle slowed and he exited the vehicle and ran, police said. Several police officers got out of their patrol cars and chased him, and officers deployed Tasers in an effort to stop him, police said, but were unsuccessful.
Moments later, police said, Walker “stopped and quickly turned towards the pursuing officers.” Mylett told reporters officers believed Walker was reaching towards his waist and they “felt that Mr. Walker had turned and was motioning and moving into a firing position,” Mylett said, and officers opened fire, killing him.
Walker was wounded 60 times, chief says
A medical examiner’s report found Walker suffered at least 60 wounds as a result of the gunfire, Mylett said Sunday, though the medical examiner is still working to determine which are entrance wounds and which are exit wounds. The BCI will determine exactly how many times Walker was shot, Mylett said.
In the meantime, it remains unclear how many rounds were fired, though Mylett said he anticipates “that number will be high” based on the videos, in which dozens of gunshots are heard over seven seconds.
“A lot of rounds were fired,” Mylett said.
8 officers placed on leave
Eight police officers were “directly involved” in the shooting, Mylett said, and all have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, according to department protocol.
According to information released by the city, seven of the eight officers are White and one is Black.
The officers are “cooperating fully” with the investigation, the Akron police union said in a statement, adding it believes the investigation will determine the officers’ use of force was justified – including the number of rounds they fired.
“The decision to deploy lethal force as well as the number of shots fired is consistent with use of force protocols and officers’ training,” the Fraternal Order of Police Akron Lodge 7 said in a statement.
What the video shows
Police on Sunday released 13 videos from police body cameras – eight from the officers directly involved in the shooting and five others from officers who were at the scene.
The videos were released according to a new city ordinance that requires video footage documenting an active police officer’s use of force to be released within seven days of the incident.
Toward the end of the pursuit, some of the footage shows the silver car Walker was driving stopping before he begins to exit the driver’s side of the vehicle.
At least one officer shouts, “Let me see your hands,” and tells him not to move. The video shows Walker getting back into the car, which slowly moves forward. He is then seen getting out of the passenger side door and running from officers.
At least one officer again yells for Walker to show his hands, one video shows. The foot chase continued for several seconds, before a series of gunshots ring out over seven seconds.
The videos end right after the gunshots were fired and do not depict police officers’ efforts to provide medical care, though police say they attempted first aid after the shooting.
They were unsuccessful, and Walker was declared dead at the scene.
Walker was full of life, relative says
Walker’s family wants answers from police officials, their attorneys said in their own news conference Sunday, but they have also asked that any protests in response to Walker’s killing remain peaceful to honor his memory.
Walker “had never broken the law a day in his life – no crimes of any kind,” Bobby Dicello, one of the attorneys said.
Robert Dejournett, a relative of Walker’s and a local pastor, said the 25-year-old was fun-loving young man full of jokes, who was adored by everyone.
“We’re God-fearing folk who believe in God and we want to exemplify that even in this process,” Dejournett told CNN, “we don’t want any rioting or anything like that.”
“Personally, I want to scream out and be mad,” the pastor said, “but what is that gonna do?”