By POLO SANDOVAL, DAKIN ANDONE and SAMANTHA BEECH
A 25-year-old Black man suffered at least 60 wounds when police officers fatally shot him last week following a high-speed chase during which the man fired a gun out the driver’s side window, authorities said.
Jayland Walker was unarmed at the time he was killed, though a gun was recovered from his car after the shooting, Akron, Ohio, Police Chief Stephen Mylett said at a news conference Sunday, when police released large portions of body camera videos from 13 officers who were at the scene, prompting more questions about Walker’s death June 27.
The shooting remains under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Eight police officers fired their weapons following the vehicle pursuit and a short foot chase, believing Walker was turning towards them, reaching towards his waist and “moving into a firing position,” according to Mylett.
While a medical examiner’s report found Walker suffered at least 60 wounds, the medical examiner is still working to determine how many times he was shot and which wounds are entrance wounds and which are exit wounds, Mylett said, adding that the BCI has yet to confirm the number of times Walker was shot, and it’s still not known how many rounds police officers fired.
“However, based on the video, I anticipate that number to be high,” he said. “A lot of rounds were fired.”
The incident began about 12:30 a.m. last Monday, when police say Walker fled as officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop for traffic and equipment violations. About 40 seconds after the pursuit began, police say a gunshot was fired from Walker’s vehicle.
“That changes the whole nature of the traffic stop,” Mylett said Sunday. “It went from being a routine traffic stop, to now a public safety issue. And then the pursuit continued.”
After several minutes, Walker got out of his car and fled on foot, police said. Officers deployed Tasers, Mylett said, but they were unsuccessful in subduing Walker.
The incident ended soon after when, according to a police timeline, Walker “stopped and quickly turned towards the officers,” and officers discharged their weapons. At least one officer can be heard near the end of videos that were released shouting, “Cease fire.”
The eight officers who Mylett said were “directly involved in the shooting” have all been placed on paid administrative leave, per department policy. According to information released by the city, seven of the officers are White and one is Black.
The video is “something that should never, ever have to be seen,” Ken Abbarno, an attorney for Walker’s family, said at a separate news conference Sunday.
“Each time I’ve watched the video, it’s gotten worse for me,” Abbarno said. “Every movement that I see, every shot that I heard, and every time that I see Jayland, lying on the ground, just gets more and more horrific.”
How the shooting unfolded
The video released by police includes footage from the body-worn cameras of 13 officers who were at the scene.
According to police, the events that led to the shooting began around 12:30 a.m., when police attempted to stop Walker, who was driving a silver Buick, for traffic and equipment violations.
About 40 seconds after Walker drove away from police, “a sound consistent with a gunshot can be heard on the body-worn cameras of the officers,” police said in a narrated video timeline of the incident. Police also said “a flash of light” could be seen on the driver’s side of the car at the time of the sound.
Mylett said officers retrieved a shell casing near the scene of the attempted traffic stop that was “consistent with the firearm that Mr. Walker had in his vehicle. The BCI will determine whether or not that casing came from the gun or not.”
He added that a traffic camera captured “what we believe to be a muzzle flash coming out of the car. Again, the BCI will be determining whether or not that is the case.”
Toward the end of the pursuit, some of the footage shows the silver car Walker was driving stopping before he begins to exit the driver’s side of the vehicle.
At least one officer shouts, “Let me see your hands” and tells him not to move. The video shows Walker getting back into the car, which slowly moves forward. He is then seen getting out of the passenger side door and running from officers.
The police narration of the video says officers “attempted to safely take the suspect into custody by deploying their Tasers,” and shows a still frame of an officer deploying a Taser. The Tasers were unsuccessful and Walker continued to run, the narration says.
At least one officer yells for Walker to show his hands, one video shows. The foot chase continued for several seconds, and at one point Walker “stopped and quickly turned towards the pursuing officers,” the police narration says. “Officers reacted by discharging their firearms, striking the suspect.”
Dozens of gunshots are heard over seven seconds as officers fire at Walker, a number of the videos show.
The shooting ends after at least one officer shouts “Cease fire” three times.
Police said the images of Walker as he was shot have been blurred at the request of the family, but in some of the footage, he appears to be on the ground as gunfire continues.
Walker died from multiple gunshot wounds to the face, abdomen and upper legs, CNN affiliate WEWS reported, citing findings by its media partner, the Akron Beacon Journal.
The Journal, which was allowed to review an investigative worksheet at the medical examiner’s office, said it “indicated that Walker was observed laying on his back and was in handcuffs when a medical examiner investigator arrived at the shooting scene.”
A handgun and loaded magazine were found in Walker’s car after the shooting, police said, along with a gold ring.
Walker family calls for change
Walker’s family wants him to be remembered as a fun-loving young man who was full of life, said Robert Dejournett, a relative and the pastor of St. Ashworth Temple Church of God In Christ.
“We’re God-fearing folk who believe in God and we want to exemplify that even in this process,” Dejournett told CNN. “We don’t want any rioting or anything like that.”
The family hopes the shooting will lead to change, he said.
“We want to take that, and we want to use it for the benefit of systemic change,” Dejournett said. “We want to be treated like human beings, you know, Black men, young men, they’re afraid when it comes to police – that shouldn’t be.”
While the family wants answers from police, they also want the public to “give peace, give dignity, and give justice a chance – for Jayland,” attorneys for Walker’s family said after police released the footage.
Walker “had never broken the law a day in his life – no crimes of any kind,” said Bobby DiCello, another family lawyer.
Walker’s behavior Monday “would be indicative of some distress, some fear, something that he was going through,” DiCello said.
Police union says use of force was justified
The Akron Police union believes the officers involved in the shooting were justified in their actions, “including [with] the number of shots fired,” according to a statement released Sunday by the Fraternal Order of Police Akron Lodge No. 7.
“The decision to deploy lethal force as well as the number of shots fired is consistent with use of force protocols and officers’ training.” Each officer is “cooperating fully” with the independent investigation conducted by the BCI, the statement said.
Ahead of the release of the footage, Akron officials asked the community to be patient and allow the investigation to be carried out while protesting peacefully if they wished to demonstrate.
“I won’t mince words – the video you are about to watch is heartbreaking and is very tough to take in,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said in a news conference ahead of the release of the footage.
The mayor acknowledged the rights of Akron residents to protest. “But I hope the community can agree, that violence and destruction are not the answer,” he said, asking that demonstrations remain peaceful.
“Please be patient and let the attorney general do their work.”
City leaders underscored that footage was released under a new city ordinance that requires video footage documenting an active police officer’s use of force to be released within seven days of the incident.
Mylett said the city welcomes peaceful protests but is prepared if demonstrations turn violent.
“We have developed an operations plan to manage and to provide safe space in this city for people to protest,” Mylett said. “And in case that it turns to a situation where it’s no longer peaceful, we have an operations plan in place for that as well, and I’m not going to discuss any of the details about that.”
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