In compliance with a city ordinance, Akron Police released body camera footage showing the killing of Jayland Walker. The footage begins after police are in pursuit. Akron police do not have dashcams in their cars, so there is no footage of the alleged stop that precipitated these events.
During a police press conference, Akron’s police chief noted many questions remained unanswered. Officials warned viewers and reporters gathered that the footage was distressing.
Local outlet News 5 streamed the police press conference and the one held by the family’s attorneys. Check out their full coverage here.
Reviewing the footage as it was released live was indeed distressing. But it could not have been more distressing for this reporter than for Jayland’s family and loved ones to endure.
Even while providing this exercise in transparency, the Akron police chief attempted to walk a tightrope between objectively reviewing the information and dismissing questions as speculative. At one point, he sidestepped questions about the officers initially choosing to deploy tasers, claiming he didn’t want to second guess or speculate about the perception of threat during the moments after officers began to pursue Jayland on foot.
But narration of the chase speculates about Jayland shooting at police during a high-speed chase instead of simply acknowledging a possible gunshot. In the moments leading up to the shooting, the footage shows a chaotic scene with police officers charging toward Jayland before an unknown number of rounds were shot.
The police chief said they don’t know the official number of rounds discharged, only that the medical examiner has reported 60 wounds on Jayland’s body. Nearly a week after killing Jayland, none of the officers involved have given a formal statement, but the community is to be reassured that they are “cooperating.”
In a final question about officers involved not yet giving statements, the police chief noted that they weren’t required to do so.
“We are walled off from the criminal investigation that is between BCI and the officers,” the police chief said. “The officers don’t have to give a statement. Every American is entitled to due process. And you know, just like everybody else, they do not have to give a statement. My understanding from the union president is there they’re going to fully cooperate with this investigation.”
The actual investigation into Jayland’s killing is being led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation located in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
When asked what specific questions he had about the incident, the police chief said he was waiting to raise them in the administrative review led by the Office of Professional Standards and accountability, the internal affairs division.
Speaking immediately after the police press conference, attorneys for the family thanked the police chief for acknowledging that Jayland Walker was unarmed when he was killed. The family’s press conference painted Jayland as a loving young man close to his family.
“The officers will have to account for every single action that they did,” said Ken Abbarno, an attorney representing Jayland Walker’s family. “We cannot villainize Jayland. This is a young man who last Sunday was with his family and his grandmother…efforts to try to paint him in a different light. That spin, that’s protection.”
Abbarno called the fact the officers had not provided statements after nearly a week “troubling.” He also raised concern about the officers possibly watching the video before giving their statement.
His co-counsel Bobby DiCello took issue with some of the presentation, alleging the police chief previously suggested the use of force was unacceptable. The police presentation of the video included still photos and a narrated video. Some of which, DiCello and his co-counsel deny seeing previously.
The attorneys also questioned the use of still images claiming that Jayland reached for his waistband and moved forward, thus likely prompting the group of officers to fire at him. Another photo showing the gun allegedly from Jayland’s car in the front seat was also challenged, with an attorney for the family saying they were under the impression it had been found in the back seat.
From the picture shown of the gun, the magazine had been removed. At least one commenter during the live stream suggested this could have been a sign of Jayland trying to disarm not discharge his weapon.
At varying points during the press conference, DiCello suggested that for Jayland Walker to react as he did was a sign of distress or something more than any reductive narrative by the police.
In response to a question from the press, attorneys noted that Jayland’s partner had recently passed away. But there was no indication to the family he had been mentally distressed.
“He wasn’t a criminal,” family attorney Bobby DiCello said. “He obviously was in pain.”
Jayland Walker’s family, attorneys and supporters continue requesting people be peaceful in their protests and general response. This plea was echoed throughout a gathering led by the Akron chapter of the NAACP.
The community was organized and ready within an hour of the Akron Police Department’s press conference. A diverse group marched through the streets up to police headquarters as solidarity horn honks could be heard along the way.
Some attendees carried “We are done dying” signs from the NAACP. Chants of “Justice for Jayland,” “We are done dying” and “How do you spell murderers? APD” rang out from the crowd as they marched through Akron.
“We gonna stand together…period,” said one attendee to a News 5 reporter. “We want them fired with no pay!” When asked how the past week has been, she responded, “heartbreaking.”