Body cam footage of Jayland Walker shooting raises questions

AKRON, Ohio — A 25-year-old black man killed by police officers in Akron, Ohio last week suffered more than 60 gunshot wounds but was unarmed at the time, the police chief said Sunday.

That detail was among the facts that came to light in the killing of man Jayland Walker, who died last Monday after fleeing police during an allegedly routine traffic stop. At a press conference On Sunday, police released bodycam videos of the chase and shooting that showed officers’ actions but deepened many questions about his death, which is still under investigation.

Mr. Walker had a speeding ticket and no criminal record. Police said they initially tried to stop him for an equipment violation and a traffic violation.

Eight officers directly involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave in accordance with department guidelines, police said.

After the videos were released, hundreds of protesters marched into downtown Akron demanding justice for Mr. Walker and condemning police brutality, while Mr. Walker’s family urged the community to remain peaceful.

In one video, a popping noise can be heard at one point and an officer reports gunshots coming from the door of Mr Walker’s car. The shot itself is not visible in the footage, but footage from outside the car was shown during the press conference that appeared to capture a muzzle flash coming from Mr Walker’s driver’s door.

Police said during the press conference that a handgun was later found in Mr Walker’s car and that a cartridge case was found where he fired and matched the gun found in Mr Walker’s vehicle . A still image released by police showed a pistol on the seat and a gold ring. Mr. Walker’s girlfriend recently died in a car accident.

Bobby DiCello, an attorney for the Walker family, said Mr. Walker only recently received the gun. “Jayland was unfamiliar with firearms, and we don’t know if it was accidentally fired,” he said. “But police found no bullets in the pistol when they found it in the car after his death.”

At the press conference, police did not comment on whether the pistol was unloaded in the car, saying there was a loaded magazine on the seat.

As the chase continued – it lasted more than seven minutes – Footage shows an officer saying Mr Walker’s car is slowing down. (Mr. Walker’s car had at times reached speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour as it drove through residential areas.) Seconds later, Mr. Walker, wearing a ski mask, got out of the vehicle and began to flee on foot.

The chase was brief, and footage appears to show a number of officers pursuing Mr Walker into a nearby parking lot, guns drawn, while yelling at him. Police officers initially used tasers, but were unsuccessful, the police said. A few seconds later, the officers open fire and Mr. Walker falls to the ground.

Akron Police Chief Stephen L. Mylett said he was not sure how many shots were fired at Mr. Walker in total. He could not confirm the exact number of bullets that hit him (although he did cite wounds reported by the coroner), but he reckoned the number would be “very high”.

Chief Mylett said officers claimed Mr Walker quickly faced officers and made a movement toward his “waist area.” However, the boss confirmed that Mr Walker was unarmed after he escaped from his car.

But Mr. DiCello said that at a previous meeting attended by the chief and family, the chief said he saw no evidence to suggest the officers’ lives were under threat.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an investigation. After this is completed, the case will be referred to the Ohio State Attorney’s Office for review.

The decision on whether to charge the officers involved with a crime is made by prosecutors, but charges have rarely been brought in similar cases of shootings involving police. If a gun was fired during the chase, that fact could greatly influence the charge decision and lend some degree of credence to officers’ claims that they were in danger.

Mr. DiCello criticized the way police portrayed Mr. Walker in the press conference. “They want to turn him into a masked monster with a gun,” he said. At the press conference, lawyers for the family also questioned the city’s release of only parts of the videos and called for the entire video to be released.

Police said they plan to release all body camera footage taken by officers at the shooting. This, they said, would include footage of the eight officers directly involved in the shooting, as well as five others who were at the scene.

The video’s release on Sunday increased tensions that were already high in Akron over the shooting. A day after more than 100 protesters gathered outside the downtown gates, chanting and holding signs, protests continued, with hundreds taking part in a march and rally organized by the Akron NAACP at City Hall

“It just keeps going, the same thing over and over again,” said Chris Mercury, 41, an African-American barbershop owner in Akron. He added that people in the country keep thinking it’s the person’s fault that this happened.

“And at the end of the day,” said his wife Monique, owner of a fashion retail store, “the danger to people who were in the same position as Walker, no matter what they do, is immediate.”

She added that “People of all races and backgrounds need to realize this is happening and it just seems to be getting worse.”

The Walker family urged the city not to resort to violence.

“If there is anything you can do for the family, please give Jayland peace, dignity and justice,” Mr. DiCello said Sunday. “My customers are private individuals. Jayland was a private child. He wasn’t married. He wasn’t a criminal. He was obviously in pain. He didn’t deserve death.”

Kim Barker and Steve Edder contributed reporting.

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