Akron braces for protests after release of video in police killing

The city of Akron, Ohio, was on edge Sunday after police released body camera footage in the killing of a Black man as police officers fired dozens of times as he fled from them on foot, apparently unarmed.

Jayland Walker was shot and killed at the end of a car chase early on the morning of June 27. Eight officers fired at Walker in a parking lot, authorities have said. Bobby DiCello, an attorney for the Walker family, has said the 25-year-old was shot as many as 60 times.

An officer initially tried to stop Walker for a traffic or vehicle equipment violation around 12:30 a.m., Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said during a Sunday news conference. Walker drove away and an officer gave chase. Less than a minute later, the officer said he heard a sound consistent with a gunshot, according to the footage released Sunday.

Police chased Walker for some time before he pulled over and fled on foot, according to the video. While police have said Walker made a movement toward police that officers perceived as a threat, no such action is clearly visible in the footage released Sunday.

As the footage ends, the officers unleash a hail of bullets.

“I’ve been a trial lawyer for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to what that video is going to show,” DiCello told the New York Times.

The attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Los Angeles Times but has joined with the family and local leaders in calling for calm after the release of the footage.

Mylett said Sunday that investigators recovered a handgun and a loaded magazine inside Walker’s car, and a bullet casing consistent with that weapon was recovered near the area where police believed he fired a shot during the car chase. But there is no indication Walker was armed when police began shooting at him.

Mylett also said officers tried to subdue Walker with stun guns earlier in the foot chase, but they missed.

DiCello has said he met with Mylett earlier in the week and the chief admitted he saw no evidence of a threatening action taken by Walker. Asked about those comments on Sunday, Mylett declined to directly address them but admitted that “when you see it in real time its very hard to distinguish what Mr. Walker is doing.”

He added that still photos appear to show Walker reaching toward his waistband and pointing his arm toward officers, even though he was not holding a weapon. Mylett also said all eight of the officers who fired believed they saw Walker move and turn into a “firing position.”

Mylett said he could not confirm the number of times officers opened fire but acknowledged it will likely be consistent with the high number DiCello has described to media outlets. He also confirmed Walker sustained approximately 60 wounds during the shooting.

“We do not know the exact number of rounds that were fired,” he said. “However, based on the video I anticipate that number to be high. … I will not be surprised if the number at the end of the investigation is consistent with the number being circulated in the media.”

The city of roughly 200,000 people has seen protests over Walker’s killing throughout the week, and city leaders appeared to fear the graphic video would spark chaotic demonstrations similar to those that followed the release of video of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.

In total, 13 officers were on scene the night of Walker’s killing, eight of whom opened fire, according to an Akron police spokesman. The officers who shot Walker are on paid leave and the shooting is now under investigation by the Ohio attorney general’s office.

In recent years, police leaders in several major cities have greatly narrowed the situations in which officers can engage in a vehicle pursuit, aware of the inherent dangers that chases pose to uninvolved civilians and officers themselves. In many cities, officers are barred from giving chase for any crime that isn’t a felony.

Whatever Walker’s initial traffic violation was — Mylett said Sunday the specific traffic infraction was unclear — the decision to give chase over it would have run afoul of best pursuit practices in most cities.

Mylett said the sound of the gunshot heard one minute into the pursuit changed the situation dramatically.

“As Mr. Walker turned onto the entrance ramp to Route 8 and the shot is fired, that changes the nature of the contact,” he said. “It went from being a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue.”