Police officers in Akron, Ohio, shot and killed 25-year-old Jayland Walker in the early hours of Monday, June 27, after they attempted to stop his car for an alleged “traffic and equipment violation.”
Walker suffered more than 60 wounds, according to a preliminary medical examiner’s report. Multiple officers shot at him an estimated 90 times following a car chase. Walker was unarmed at the time he was killed, police said at a news conference on Sunday, July 3.
Video footage released almost a week after the shooting raised many questions about the officers’ conduct and set off protests in Akron, where the mayor declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew on the July Fourth holiday to “preserve peace.”
Demonstrators marched and demanded that the officers be held accountable for shooting an unarmed Black man. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is examining what took place, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will decide whether to bring charges against the officers. The killing of Walker is the third police shooting in Akron since December, according to the Washington Post.
Most of the information so far about Walker’s killing comes from the police themselves. The body camera footage that could prove or disprove the Akron police’s central assertions — that they heard a gunshot from Walker’s car, and that Walker, who was found to be unarmed after his death, had reached toward his waistband — is inconclusive.
In past police killings, the police have lied to and misled the public about the circumstances — describing the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis as Floyd “suffering medical distress”; covering up the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago; incorrectly claiming that 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Texas was a threat; saying that a 75-year-old man in Buffalo tripped and fell when video shows officers violently pushing him.
At the conference, Akron police chief Stephen Mylett released some portions of body camera footage from the 13 officers who were at the scene.
The footage shows officers in their vehicles pursuing Walker in a car chase that lasted for about seven minutes, on an expressway and on city streets. As Walker’s car slows down, video shows officers exiting their vehicles to approach his silver car; Walker leaves it from the passenger side and runs away. Several officers then pursue him on foot. Seconds later, eight police officers open fire, killing him.
The officers could be heard shooting nonstop for about seven seconds, after which at least one officer can be heard saying, “Cease fire!” Officers handcuffed Walker’s dead body, according to the family’s lawyer, and medical professionals announced that Walker was dead at the scene.
At issue is whether Walker posed a threat to officers during the encounter, and whether the police faced danger that required them to use force. Walker was unarmed when the police officers gunned him down. Yet, officers reported to investigators that they believed Walker was turning back toward them, reaching for his waist and “moving into a firing position,” the police chief said during the press conference.
Based on the body camera footage, it’s hard to tell if this actually happened. “When you see it in real time, it’s very hard to distinguish what Mr. Walker is doing,” Mylett said.
Officers found a handgun and a loaded magazine in Walker’s vehicle after the shooting, they said. There were no bullets in the gun. Officers said that 40 seconds into the car chase, they heard a gunshot fired from Walker’s car. The gunshot is not visible from police body camera footage. Video from an Ohio Department of Transportation camera along the expressway, shared by police officers at the news conference, seemed to show a flash of light that could have been a muzzle flash in the window of Walker’s driver side door, though the image is not very clear.
The eight officers who fired their weapons have been placed on paid administrative leave, and the Akron Police Department said that they arrested and charged about 50 demonstrators on Monday with rioting and misconduct, among other charges.
As protesters continue to call for justice, the video footage has opened the door to greater suspicion about the killing, prompting lawyers for the family to question why police officers decided to fire at Walker almost 100 times.
Here’s what we know about the fatal shooting.
What videos show about the police killing of Jayland Walker
The Akron Police Department compiled a narrative video that combines some of the body camera footage with their official narrative of events. They say that officers attempted to stop Jayland Walker at 12:30 am for a “traffic and equipment violation.” Walker, however, did not stop and instead led officers on a car chase, the police said.
While on the expressway and 40 seconds into the chase, an officer can be heard stating on body camera audio, “That vehicle just had a shot come out of its door.” The narrated police video claims that “a flash of light can be seen on the driver’s side of the suspect’s vehicle.”
(The video is taken from an ODOT camera along the expressway, is fuzzy, and was recorded from far away. And it is not clear from the video that Walker tried to shoot at officers, since he was driving ahead of and away from them.)
The pursuit then continued onto a ramp, then on city streets. Moments later, Walker slows down (officers can be heard saying, “He’s slowing down” as they prepare to get out of their squad cars) and exits from the passenger side door of his vehicle while wearing a ski mask, as several officers scream, “Don’t fucking move! Stop moving! Show me your fucking hands!”
Police say they tried to stop Walker with Tasers but that the Taser deployment was unsuccessful. Multiple officers can be seen with their guns drawn even before Walker exits his vehicle, while at least one officer can be seen with a Taser on video.
Officers can be seen immediately running after Walker on foot into an empty parking lot. Police say Walker turned toward them quickly — though this is difficult to discern from the video — at which point police officers fired their weapons. They continued to shoot Walker repeatedly after he had already fallen to the ground and was no longer voluntarily moving; Walker’s body could be seen twitching after every shot.
What we still don’t know about the police killing of Walker
The video footage provided by officers does not offer a complete or clear picture of what took place. And police reports often include incorrect information.
The video does not show whether officers attempted a traffic stop, as they claim, and only begins when officers are in their cars chasing Walker on the expressway. Mylett said he did not know what the traffic or equipment violation was that officers tried to stop Walker for, which leaves the question open of why there were more than a dozen officers at the scene for an alleged traffic violation. Lawyers for Walker’s family are also questioning why the police only released parts of the available video, and are calling for the release of all of it.
It is also unclear exactly how many times officers shot Walker and how many bullets struck his body. The police chief confirmed at the press conference that the medical examiner observed over 60 bullet wounds on Walker’s body, but had not yet examined the body to determine which were entrance or exit wounds.
“We do not know the exact number of rounds that were fired. … However, based on the video, I anticipate that number to be high. And I will not be surprised if the number at the end of the investigation is consistent with the number that has been circulating in the media, but right now we just don’t know,” Mylett said.
It is also unclear what caused officers to believe that Walker was a threat to them. A lawyer for Walker’s family, Bobby DiCello, told NBC that he didn’t see any evidence that Walker posed a threat to officers by shooting at them. “They descend upon him, and the first two of many officers there use their Tasers,” he said. “There can be no doubt he was unarmed at the time he exited the vehicle. It’s a nonlethal force when you have a nonlethal threat.”
DiCello said that when he viewed the video with police chief Mylett on Thursday, June 30, the chief did not report that Walker threatened the officers. “The chief told us Thursday when he showed us the video that he could not find the movement that caused the shot,” DiCello said.
The police chief implied that officers may have had a reason to believe that Walker was armed, since one officer reported hearing a gunshot from Walker’s car during the chase. But the investigation will have to confirm if the gun was even fired. At the press conference, Mylett said that police found a casing at the location that was “consistent with a firearm that Mr. Walker had in his vehicle.”
DiCello told the New York Times that Walker, who had one traffic ticket and no criminal record, had only recently obtained the gun. “Jayland was not familiar with firearms, and we do not know if it accidentally fired. But police did find no bullets in the handgun when they found it in the car after his death.”
Mylett emphasized that the investigation will take time and called for Akron residents to be peaceful, as protests in Akron are ongoing. Officers have showed up in riot gear and tear gassed demonstrators.
Prosecutors rarely charge police officers for excessive use of force. Though about 1,000 fatal shootings are reported each year, police are prosecuted for murder in less than 2 percent of cases.
“His name is Jayland and he is not a monster,” DiCello told reporters outside of the press conference. “They want to turn him into a masked monster with a gun ... At the time he was shot, more than 90 or 60 [times] or whatever the unbelievable number will be, he was unarmed.”