The grief-stricken family of Jayland Walker, who died Monday after police say he fled a traffic stop, gathered Thursday to call for peace, understanding and justice in the latest officer-involved shooting.
An attorney said the family is demanding accountability for the multiple officers who reportedly shot Walker dozens of times following a 4½-minute car chase from Akron’s North Hill neighborhood to Firestone Park. Police allege that a gun was fired from Walker’s vehicle but have yet to explain whether he was armed when he was shot in the arms, legs, abdomen and face by multiple officers then handcuffed on the ground of a parking lot until the medical examiner arrived to pronounce him dead. A gun was found in his vehicle, according to a medical examiner report.
Jayland Walker: What we know about the fatal Akron police shooting
Fallout from the incident spilled into downtown Thursday, when a protest unaffiliated with Walker's immediate family blocked traffic outside the police station and municipal courthouse. Judges postponed hearings and the mayor canceled the Rib, White and Blue and other downtown Fourth of July events this weekend, saying now is no time to celebrate.
Walker’s mother, Pamela, and sister, Jada, were too overtaken with sorrow to speak Thursday. Flanked on one side by Black pastors and elected officials and on the other side by Walker’s family and friends, Pamela Walker took a seat as attorney Paige White delivered a forceful speech to a row of television news cameras outside St. Ashworth Church on Vernon Odom Boulevard.
Akron police shooting: Protesters block downtown traffic, denounce Akron police-involved death of Jayland Walker
“I stand before you all with a family who is heartbroken, devastated, confused and searching for answers. There’s no words to describe what this family is going through. From what we’ve read, 90 shots,” White said, pausing as Pamela burst into tears, leaning into the arms of her daughter.
“We don’t treat animals that way,” White continued. “Time and again, what we see across this country are white people who are able to commit crimes, to slaughter people and who live to tell the tale. Jayland Walker wasn’t able to do that.”
Walker’s sister, who was scheduled to speak, then followed her mother into the church, where the two women could be heard wailing during the press conference called by the family and their attorneys.
The family asked their attorneys to inform police that they will settle for nothing less than justice and accountability. And they asked that Walker not be spun into anything other than the “good man” he was.
“I know a lot of people like to say that their loved ones are good,” said Lajuana Walker-Dawkins, whom Walker called “Aunt Mini.” “But it’s the truth.
“We want you to know who Jayland was. We don’t want him to be portrayed as some thug,” the aunt said of the “skinny little nephew” she misses dearly.
Who was Jayland Edward Walker?
Jayland Edward Walker, 25, was a standout wrestler at Buchtel High School, where he graduated in 2015. He worked for Amazon then took a job driving for DoorDash, said Bobby DiCello, the lead attorney for the Walker family.
He had aspirations of starting his own delivery business. And he was engaged to be married until his fiancé, Jaymeisha Beasley, also died tragically last month.
Beasley was struck by a hit-skip driver, who has yet to be found, following a car crash on a highway outside Cincinnati. Walker was not with Beasley when she died.
The family couldn’t say when the two planned to get married. But their families are grieving together, people close to the Walker family said at the church Thursday.
“Jayland, not one time in his life, and you can search this city, this state and this country— never offended or bothered a soul. And how these events took place leaves us with many, many questions,” said DiCello. “Our job, by doing this press conference, is to remind the police department for the city of Akron that we are here for accountability. We are also here to uphold the dignity of this man, not to vilify him, not to turn him into someone he was never intended to be. We’re not going to let the media or the newspapers or the police define who he was. His family is here to tell you who he was.”
Attorneys said Walker gave no indication to his family that "was doing anything wrong" in the days and hours before his death. He did not try to contact any of his family in the 4½ minutes that police chased him, the attorneys said.
DiCello took questions after talking about Walker and the limited information released so far. Family asked why police, who said tasers were used before firing their weapons, did not de-escalate the situation. They asked what evidence would be available.
The attorney could not fully answer their questions. DiCello thanked Police Chief Steve Mylett for promising to show the family body-worn camera footage of the incident in the next 24 hours. Police cruisers do not have dash cameras in Akron.
The attorney said he intends to press police on the measures taken to de-escalate the situation before resorting to deadly force and whether officers had “the courage” to follow the rules.
'Everybody loses': Akron chief says of police shootings; family says 'That's not Jayland."
Akron police chief, mayor: 'It's a dark day for our city'
Mylett and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan issued a joint statement Wednesday expressing confidence in the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which will review the matter, and promising to release the body worn camera footage within the seven days required by city law.
"We know that no police officer ever wants to discharge their service weapon in the line of duty," the mayor and chief said. "And anytime they must, it's a dark day for our city, for the families of those involved, as well as for the officers. Tragically, we are once again faced with a young man, with his life before him, gone too soon."
DiCello’s co-counsel, Ken Abbarno, said he believes that seven white officers and one Black officer fired on Walker. Traffic footage that the Ohio Department of Transportation released pursuant to a public records request shows a single cruiser chasing Walker from Tallmadge Avenue onto southbound state Route 8 around 12:31 a.m. Monday. A second cruiser appears moments later.
From a camera overlooking I-77 and Archwood Avenue, 10 cruisers can be seen closely following Walker at 12:35 a.m. as another cruiser races down the highway toward Wilbeth Avenue.
Police said Walker ran from his rolling car. Officers confronted him in into a parking lot on the Bridgestone Americas campus, where officers said they perceived a threat and fired their guns after deploying tasers.
“We will learn the truth in the coming days,” DiCello said, who called for change.
This 25-year-old Black man will not die in vain if the next tragedy can be prevented, he said.
Akron NAACP president: 'He wasn't just another Black man killed'
“Jayland Walker — I’m going to say his name over and over — Jayland Walker was somebody’s son. Jayland Walker was somebody’s nephew. Jayland Walker was an individual. He wasn’t just another Black man killed,” said Akron NAACP President Judi Hill, who was asked by the family to speak Thursday.
“He’s a young man, 25, who lost his life over a traffic equipment violation,” Hill said. “I understand the family asked for peace. I want peace and understanding.”
Reach reporter Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron police shooting: Jayland Walker's family 'devastated'