AKRON, Ohio (AP) — 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 them shot earlier from a vehicle and feared he was preparing to shoot again, authorities said at a news conference on Sunday.
Akron police have released video of the shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker, who was killed June 27 in a chase that began with an attempted traffic stop. The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking the community for patience.
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It’s unclear 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 shooting even after he was on the ground.
Officers attempted to stop Walker’s car at around 12:30 p.m. for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but less than a minute into a chase, the sound of a gunshot fire was heard from the car and a Transportation Department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle. flash from the vehicle, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said. It changed the nature of the case “from a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue”, he said.
Police body camera footage shows what happened after the roughly six-minute chase. Several officers shouting with guns approach the slowing car on foot, as it rolls over a curb and over a curb. A person wearing a ski mask comes out of the passenger door and runs towards a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a flurry of gunfire that lasts 6 or 7 seconds.
At least one officer had first tried using a stun gun but was unsuccessful, police said.
Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to make out on live video, but one still photo appears to show him “dropping to the waist” and another appears to show him turning to an officer. He said a third image “captures a forward movement of his arm.”
In a statement shared with reporters on Sunday, the local police union said officers believed there was an immediate threat of serious injury and believed their actions and the number of shots would be deemed justified. according to their training and protocols. The union said officers were cooperating with the investigation.
Police say more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body, but further investigation is needed to determine exactly how many shots officers fired and how many times Walker was hit.
The footage released by the police ends with the officers firing shots and does not show what happened next. Officers provided assistance, and Walker was heard to still have a pulse, but he was later pronounced dead, Mylett said.
The chief said an officer shooting someone must be “prepared to explain why he did what he did, he must be able to articulate the specific threats he faced…and he must be held responsible”. But he said he is withholding judgment on their actions until they make their statements.
A handgun, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring were found on the car seat. A casing compatible with the weapon was later found in the area where officers believed a gunshot had come from the vehicle.
State Attorney General Dave Yost promised a “full, fair and expert investigation” by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and warned that “body-worn camera footage is not than a view of the whole picture”.
Akron police are conducting a separate internal investigation into whether officers violated department rules or policies.
The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases. Seven of them are white, and one is black, according to the department. Their tenure with the Akron police ranges from a year and a half to six years, and none of them have prior disciplinary records, substantiated complaints or fatal shootings, he added.
Protesters marched peacefully through the city and gathered outside the Akron Justice Center 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.”
Late Sunday, police in full riot gear fired a dozen tear gas canisters to disperse a handful of protesters outside the justice center, WKYC-TV reported.
Walker’s family are calling for accountability but also for peace, their lawyers said. One of the lawyers, Bobby DiCello, called the police flurry of gunfire excessive and unreasonable, and said police handcuffed Walker before trying to administer first aid.
“How it came to this with a lawsuit is beyond me,” DiCello said.
He said Walker’s family did not know why he fled from the police. Walker was mourning the recent death of his fiancée, but his family had no indication of concern beyond that, and he was not a criminal, DiCello said.
“I hope we will remember that when Jayland drove through that parking lot, he was unarmed,” DiCello said.
He said he didn’t know if the gold ring found near the gun in the car belonged to Walker.