Ohio grand jury won't indict officers involved in shooting of Jayland Walker
AKRON, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio grand jury declined to indict eight police officers who fired 94 shots in the death last year of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man who fired at least one round at officers during a car and foot chase, the state's attorney general announced Monday.
Walker was shot 46 times in a hail of gunfire that lasted just under seven seconds after he jumped out of his still-moving car and ran from police, said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
He had ignored commands to stop and show his hands and then reached toward his waistband and raised his hand as officers were chasing, Yost said. Some of the officers first used Tasers before firing their guns, he said.
But the officers, not knowing Walker left his gun in the car, believed he was going to fire again at them, Yost said. He said it is critical to remember that Walker had fired at police, and that he "shot first."
The shooting last June that Walker's family said was brutal and senseless sparked protests in Akron. On Monday, the city's mayor and police chief urged residents to react peacefully, acknowledging that tensions are high.
"Turn toward one other and not on each other," said Mayor Daniel Horrigan.
During a tear- and frustration-filled response press conference, the Walker family and their allies mourned the grand jury’s inaction and called on Akron residents to protest loudly for justice and change. Democratic U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, of Akron, said she will ask the department to investigate "the patterns and practices of the Akron Police Department."
"I still can’t comprehend how a young man has 46 bullet holes from officers and that is justified," Sykes said, while also urging people to honor Walker’s memory by protesting peacefully. "I ask you to remember the words of Jayland’s family by speaking up. But do so without violence."
The family and the NAACP previously have called on the Justice Department to open a federal civil rights investigation.
Bobby DiCello, an attorney for Walker's family, criticized the state's investigation, saying police gunned down Walker execution-style. Paige White, another attorney for the family, said the investigation was skewed in favor of the police and that "Jayland didn’t have a chance."
"Akron Police Department, when you call for peace, when you call for no destruction, when you call for respect — where was your respect for Jayland?" White said.
The state investigation found that police first saw Walker driving with a broken taillight and a broken light on his rear license plate, but they decided not to follow him. They saw him 10 minutes later at the same intersection and decided to pursue him for the equipment violation, Yost said.
Police said Walker refused to stop and then fired a shot from his car 40 seconds into the pursuit.
Officers chased the car on a freeway and city streets until Walker bailed from the still-moving vehicle and ran into a parking lot where he was killed while wearing a ski mask, body cam video showed. Authorities said he represented a "deadly threat." A handgun, a loaded magazine and a wedding ring were found on the driver’s seat of his car.
Police union officials said the officers thought there was an immediate threat of serious harm and that their actions were in line with their training and protocols.
Dash-cam video from a police cruiser captured images of Walker firing the gun from his car, said Anthony Pierson, an assistant state attorney general. Walker had no criminal history and had never fired a gun until he went to a shooting range with a friend in early June, Pierson said.
Walker had been grieving his fiancée’s recent death but his family had no indication of concern beyond that, a family representative previously said.
Pierson wouldn’t speculate about Walker’s state of mind that night and said there was no direct evidence that he was suicidal.
"That night he encountered the police he wasn’t acting himself," Pierson said. "By all accounts he was a good person, a good man."
Blurry body camera footage released last summer did not clearly show what authorities say was a threatening gesture Walker made before he was shot.
Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said Monday that the city will begin an internal investigation into the shooting, but he would not release the names of the eight officers because of ongoing threats against them.
The officers, who initially were placed on leave, will remain on administrative duties. None of the eight officers appear to have been disciplined for any previous use of force incidences, according to investigation records released by the state
While the grand jury’s decision shows no crime was committed by the officers, "in no way does that take away from the tragedy of June 27," Mylett said.
Attorneys for the eight officers released a statement calling the incident a tragedy for the entire community, including Walker's family and all of the officers who were involved. "A split-second decision to use lethal force is one that every police officer hopes he or she will never be forced to make," the statement said.
A county medical officer said t he autopsy found no illegal drugs or alcohol were detected in Walker's body.
After taking over the investigation last summer at the request of Akron police, prosecutors with the Ohio attorney general’s office presented the case to the grand jury.
City leaders have been preparing for potential demonstrations and set up a designated protest zone downtown outside the city hall building, where plywood covered the first-floor windows. There’s also temporary fencing around the county courthouse and many businesses boarded up their windows.
The city's school district canceled classes on Tuesday in the wake of the grand jury announcement.
Less than 24 hours before the chase, police in neighboring New Franklin Township had tried to stop a car matching Walker’s, also for unspecified minor equipment violations. A supervisor there called off the pursuit when the car crossed the township’s border with Akron.
Seewer reported from Toledo. Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth and Samantha Hendrickson in Columbus, Ohio and Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania, contributed.