AKRON, Ohio — 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 shot at them earlier from a vehicle and feared he was preparing to fire again, authorities said Sunday at a news conference.
Akron police release video from the fatal shooting of Jayland Wade, 25. The incident occurred in pursuit of a failed traffic stop. The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking for patience from the community.
It’s not clear how many shots were fired by the eight officers involved, but Walker sustained more than 60 wounds. An attorney for Walker’s family said officers kept firing even after he was on the ground.
Officers attempted to stop Walker’s car around 12:30 a.m. for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but less than a minute into a pursuit, the sound of a shot was heard from the car, and a transportation department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle flash coming from the vehicle, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said. That changed the nature of the case from “a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue,” he said.
After the six-minute chase, videos from police body cams show what transpired. As the car rolls over a curb, several shouting police officers approach it on foot with their guns drawn. The passenger door is opened by a person in a ski mask. He runs towards a parking garage. For about 10 seconds police chased him before he ran toward a parking lot.
According to police, at least one officer attempted first to use the stun gun but was unsuccessful.
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.”
According to a Sunday statement, local police union stated that the officers felt there was an immediate danger of serious harm and it believed their actions would be justified. According to the union, the officers were cooperating in the investigation.
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.
The footage released by police ends with the officers’ gunfire and doesn’t show what happened next. Mylett reported that officers provided assistance and could be heard saying Walker had a pulse. However, he later died.
The chief 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.
On the passenger seat, officers found a handgun and a loaded magazine. An apparent wedding ring was also discovered. Later, officers found a casing that was consistent with the weapon in an area believed to have been the source of a shot.
State Attorney General Dave Yost vowed a “complete, fair and expert investigation” by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and cautioned that “body-worn camera footage is just one view of the whole picture.”
Akron police are also investigating whether officers have violated policies and department rules.
All officers involved in this shooting were on paid administrative leaves, as is the norm in such situations. According to the department, seven of them were white and one was black. It said that their service time with Akron police is between one and a half to six years.
After the release of the video, demonstrators marched through the city peacefully and then gathered at the Akron justice centre. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that Walker’s death wasn’t self-defense, but “was murder. Point blank.”
Walker’s family is calling for accountability but also for peace, their lawyers said. Bobby DiCello (an attorney) called the police’s use of gunfire to discredit Walker and stated that Walker was handcuffed before being able to give 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.
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