AKRON, Ohio — “As a family, we stand for nonviolence, but we encourage protest,” Bobby DiCello, the attorney speaking for the family of Jayland Walker, said at a press conference here July 11.
Walker, 25, was gunned down in a hail of 90 bullets fired by eight cops here June 27, after he got out of his car and ran from the cops. Much of this was caught on police body cameras.
“After a weekend of protests and more violence from police, Jayland Walker’s family is calling for an immediate end to the aggressive, violent tactics being used by the Akron police against protesters,” DiCello said. “They are also calling for all curfews to be lifted and an end to the city’s efforts to blame Jayland for the horrific and unjustified shooting that took his life.”
“Protesters shouldn’t be going around tearing stuff up either,” Pastor Robert DeJournett of the St. Ashworth Temple of the Church of God in Christ said at the press conference. “The police department should be acting in a nonviolent way as well.”
Police had stopped Walker for a minor traffic violation, but say he drove off and fired a shot from his car. At the end of a seven-minute police pursuit, they say he exited the car wearing a ski mask and tried to run away. Police claim they opened fire when he turned toward them and made a motion toward his waist. They kept firing even as he lay on the ground.
Police admit he was unarmed when he was killed. An unloaded gun, a bullet magazine and a wedding ring were found in the car. He was handcuffed behind his back, as he lay there dying.
“He was running away!” Clinton Rogers, a retired United Auto Workers union member, told the Militant July 6. “That is a lot of shots for someone who had never been in trouble with the law. I would like to give the cops the benefit of the doubt, but really!”
Rogers said, “It’s a ploy they claim he was reaching for something. Cops say that all the time.”
Protests began after Walker was killed, and increased when body camera footage was released July 3. That evening some who joined the protests vandalized stores and vehicles in the downtown area. The next day the mayor imposed a curfew, which is now in place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
“Violence in the streets will accomplish nothing and will only bring more anguish to our community,” the family said. Despite subsequent protests being overwhelmingly peaceful, police have fired tear gas and beaten some demonstrators.
Police say that Walker had fled a traffic stop by police in New Franklin the night before he was killed. Friends and family members say that Walker’s actions were unusual for him. Walker, who had worked recently for DoorDash, was deeply affected by the death of his fiancé in a traffic accident the month before.
DiCello told reporters, “At this point in the investigation there is no explanation” for Walker’s behavior the last two days of his life. The family wants to know what happened, and seek justice for the excessive police response that led to the death of their son.