Justice Denied“Akron 8” Face No Charges Protesters Question Verdict
(Akron, OH) -- The eight Akron police officers who collectively fired nearly 100 rounds at an unarmed 25-year-old Jayland Walker last summer won’t be facing any criminal charges in connection with his death now that a Summit County grand jury voted earlier this week not to indict them.
The ”no bill”decisionforcing the Akron to raise the ire many in the Black Community protesting, demonstrations, and prayer vigils all over the city.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost hastily announced the decision Monday afternoon, saying the officers were justified in shooting Walker, who in the early morning hours of June 27 led police first on a car chase, and then a foot pursuit before they opened fire on him alleging that he appeared to be drawing a weapon from his waistband.
Walker, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting had recently purchased a handgun, which was later found on the driver’s seat of his car next to its dislodged magazine and his wedding band.
“It’s unusual to have this many officers firing their weapons at the same time at a single suspect,” said Yost. “It amplifies the use of force exponentially. But it’s critical to remember Mr. Walker had fired on the police. He shot first.”
Jury Results Explained
According to investigative reports posted online by the attorney general’s office, the following narrative emerged:
A week before the shooting, Jayland had purchased a handgun from Range USA in Akron. He had not previously been a gun enthusiast but had gone to the range with a friend just a month or so before his death, the documents show. That friend, a Summit County sheriff’s deputy, told investigators that Jayland at one time or another had asked him about conditions under which police would use lethal force against a suspect. The friend also said Jayland seemed forlorn over the death of his fiancée, Jaymeisha Beasley, who had been killed in a car accident in May of last year.
Just days after her death, the sheriff’s deputy said Jayland called to say, “I love you. I’m like, ‘Iove you, too. I said, ‘What’s going on? Then he would like cry for a while; he was like, ‘They took my girlfriend from me.”
The online reports also allege that during May and early June of last year, Jayland performed several internet searches on topics like – “the quickest way to die,” and “what happens when you drink bleach.”
The night before the shooting, New Franklin police spotted Jayland’s 2005 Buick with a blown taillight and tried to pull him over. A chase ensued, but the New Franklin police soon abandoned the chase once the car crossed over the Akron city line, saying a minor traffic violation wasn’t worth the pursuit.
Twenty-four hours later Akron police spot the same car with the same busted taillight, and eventually a chase ensues. During the chase, police say a flash of light – presumably a gunshot – appears from the driver’s side window. Officers immediately radio for help.
One by one other Akron police officers join the pursuit, some blocking off roadways and others following behind the lead officers. With the officers in hot pursuit, eventually Jayland exits his vehicle from the passenger side, but leaves the car in gear so that it is slowly rolling forward as he’s running away. During the foot chase, a few officers attempt to tase Jayland but the tasers are ineffective they said.
The documents contend that Jayland then does a 360-degree turn to face the officers, who by now have been joined by numerous other Akron officers on the scene. They say Jayland’s hands are near his waistband, and he suddenly lifts his arm as if he’s wielding a weapon.
To a person, the eight officers say they felt threatened by Jayland’s movements. One officer told investigators he actually thought Jayland had turned and fired at them, but later learned the initial gunshot was from one of the other officers. Jayland was unarmed when he was killed.
“The grand jury concluded that the officers were legally justified in their use of force,” Yost concluded. But U.S. Representative Emilia Strong Sykes said she won’t rest until justice is done.
“I can’t understand how a young man has 46 bullet wounds, and that’s justified,” she said. “We can all agree that over 90 shots in seven seconds hitting a human being over 40 times, is excessive.
“I will formally request the Department of Justice to begin an investigation into the patterns and practices of the Akron Police Department. The federal government can and should take up the mantle and investigate … to ensure that there is justice for Jayland.”
The officers contend, according to their online statements, that they are trained to use lethal force when a suspect is an imminent threat to police or others. They say they are trained to use that force until the threat “has been neutralized.”
Immediately after the shooting, the eight Akron officers were placed on paid administrative leave. Last October, however, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett brought the officers back on the force doing desk duty instead of patrolling the streets. He said Monday they would remain on desk duty while the city does its own investigation into whether the officer violated department policies. He still refuses to release the names of the officers to protect their safety.
The Walker family, which has advocated for peaceful protests since the shooting first occurred, seemed crestfallen that the shooters won’t be held to account for Jayland’s death.
“Our hearts are hurting,” said Rev. Robert DeJournett, pastor of St. Ashworth Church of God in Christ and member of the Walker family. “(The city) talks about peace. We’re not at peace now. We’re not advocating violence, but we don’t feel peaceful. How can we be calm when an injustice has happened. This is a sad day for our family, and for our community.”
At the family’s press conference just hours after Attorney General Yost announced the grand jury results, Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello also expressed his dismay at the decision.
“I am extremely disappointed in the manner in which this (grand jury) presentation walks right past the legal principles this family has been required to follow,” DiCello said. “I wish you could have been there when I broke the news to the family. I wish you could have heard the screaming. There was screaming.”
The Akron Urban League, the Akron chapter of the NAACP and other community leaders also issued statements expressing disbelief at the grand jury’s findings and calling for peaceful protests. Demonstrations are being planned in the days ahead, while the city officials, even before the grand jury results were released, began boarding up downtown buildings in anticipation of mob violence.
“As the mother of a Black man, I cannot imagine the anguish the Walker family must be feeling as they continue to mourn and heal from the loss of their loved one, and I extend to them my deepest condolences,” said St Rep. Tavia Galonski. “As many of us continue to grieve and make sense of Jayland’s death, I ask for everyone to be peaceful and calm. Once the findings from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation are made public, then we will all have a better understanding of this tragedy and how we can work together as a community to make sure that it never happens again.”
“The grand jury’s decision is not the end of Walker’s case,” said St. Rep. Galonski. “ The “no bill” decision simply means that the officers involved will not face criminal charges from the state. The Akron Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation on the shooting to determine whether the officers’ actions violated internal policies and procedures.”
“We need to make change, real change,” said Akron Urban League President and CEO Teresa R. LeGrair, “But let’s not do it by tearing up our community. Let’s protest, let’s speak our mind – shout it to the rafters – but let’s not be violent and tear up our own community.”
US Congresswoman Emilia Emilia Sykes summed it up this way:
“Justice has not been served,” Sykes said. “A future has been cut short. Once again, a routine traffic stop ends in death, and a community mourns the loss. We find ourselves yearning for a justice system that protects all of us.”