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Akron Beacon Journal

Grand jury decision: No criminal charges for 8 Akron officers who shot Jayland Walker

By Stephanie Warsmith, Akron Beacon Journal,


The eight Akron officers who shot and killed Jayland Walker last June won’t face criminal charges in his death.

A special grand jury of six women and three men, including two Black citizens, on Monday returned a no-bill in Summit County Common Pleas Court, which means the jurors found the actions of the officers were justified.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Walker fired out of his vehicle while he was being chased by officers. He said a shell casing was recovered from the entrance ramp to state Route 8 and the ballistics matched the gun recovered in Walker's car after the shooting. A Cuyahoga Falls officer also witnessed Walker firing a shot and it was recorded on his dash camera, Yost said.

"The law allows officers to use deadly force to defend themselves or others against a deadly threat," Yost said.

However, Yost said, the legal justification doesn't change the tragedy of 25-year-old Walker's death.

"I grieve the loss of this promising young life, though I recognize no words of mine will offer comfort to the family," he said.

The special grand jury was convened beginning last week at the request of Yost for the sole purpose of considering the Walker case. The jurors heard five days of testimony and then deliberated, with Yost holding a press conference via Zoom at 3:30 p.m. Monday to announce the decision.

Grand jury's decision prompts mixed reaction

The announcement prompted immediate reaction from the community and Akron leaders, including U.S. Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, who issued a statement saying she will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to begin an investigation into the Akron Police Department’s practices.

“We’ve seen it too many times,” she said. “A routine traffic stop ends in death, and a family and community mourn the loss of a son. A brother. A friend. A neighbor. As this country and community reckons with another tragic death, we find ourselves yearning for a justice system that protects us all.”

Demetrius Travis Sr., a cousin of Jayland Walker, said in a text message: "Disappointment cannot began to express how I feel about this decision…Whatever happens because of this decision is not on the Walker family, it is due to a continuing disregard for the lives of black and brown people in the United States of America."

Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello, who led a news conference early Monday evening at St. Ashworth Temple in Akron, railed at the state-led investigation, saying, "In my lifetime, I haven't seen anything like this."Seated beside him was Jayland Walker's mother, Pamela Walker, and he was joined by several community leaders in calling for people angered by the grand jury outcome to lift up their voices.

Akron attorneys who represent the Akron police union and three of the officers involved in Walker's shooting said all the officers cooperated with the investigation and answered all the BCI investigators' questions.

“The Akron FOP acknowledges the pain and suffering of Mr. Walker's family and joins them in calling for peace in our community," the attorneys said in a statement.

Attorney Don Malarcik said the officer he represents was thankful and relieved when he heard the grand jury's decision.

"He also knows this is not a day to celebrate," Malarcik said.

The identities of the officers, whose names have been withheld by the city, still weren’t released after the grand jury’s decision.

A spokesman for Yost said the attorney general’s office only publicly names officers who have already been identified by their own departments.

Akron chief asked state to investigate Walker's shooting

Walker was shot in the early morning hours of June 27 more than 40 times by eight Akron officers after a car and foot chase. He was wearing a ski mask and unarmed.

How did Jayland Walker die?: Jayland Walker had 46 entrance wounds and died from 'devastating injuries,' examiner says

Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), an arm of the attorney general’s office, to handle the investigation. Mylett says this will now be the norm for the department. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh also asked the attorney general's office to present evidence to the grand jury.

Walker's shooting touched off a series of protests in Akron last summer, with dozens of arrests made and police at times deploying tear gas or pepper spray to disperse crowds. Several downtown businesses were damaged and fires were set.

From our editor: Why local journalists matter for covering the Jayland Walker case from beginning to end

In preparation for the special grand jury and the protests that were anticipated after it, tall metal fences were installed around the Summit County Courthouse on the High Street side and concrete barriers were placed on the sidewalk on the Broadway side. Lower-level windows on City Hall were boarded up.

BCI investigated the shooting and then handed over its findings to assistant prosecutors with Yost’s office. The assistant prosecutors then presented the case to the special grand jury, which began meeting last Monday.

A vote of seven of nine grand jurors was required. The jurors first had to decide if Walker's shooting was justified or if another officer would likely have reacted in the same way. If they found that the shooting wasn't justified, they then would have had to decide if there was probable cause that the officers had committed a crime.

What to know about grand jury: 'Solemn duty:' Ahead of Jayland Walker case, what we know about the grand jury process

Yost declined during the press conference to say the breakdown of the grand jury's vote, which he said is kept secret. He also wouldn't answer questions about who testified before the grand jury.

Officers fired 94 shots at Walker over 6.7 seconds, according to Yost and Senior Assistant Attorney General Anthony Pierson.

"Most of officer-involved shootings involve an officer or perhaps an officer and a partner. It is unusual, although hardly unprecedented, to have this many officers firing their weapon at the same time at a single subject. The sheer number of shots is one of the things that makes the video so hard to watch ...That being said, it is critical to remember that Mr. Walker had fired on the police, and that he shot first," Yost said.

State official details what led to Jayland Walker's death

Pierson outlined the evidence collected during a state investigation, including what led up to the deadly encounter.

Pierson said New Franklin officers attempted to pull Walker’s 2005 Buick Century over about 2:30 a.m. June 26 when they spotted the car with a license plate light out. The officers entered the vehicle into their system, then began to pursue it but then called off the chase when it got too dangerous for such a minor violation.

One of the New Franklin officers said the driver was wearing a black hoodie and he thought he was white, though he later said he wasn’t sure.

Pierson said all indications are that this was Walker.

About 12:22 a.m. June 27, Akron officers again spotted Walker's car in about the same area where he was driving in the early morning areas the previous day. The officers initially decided not to pull the car over but changed their minds when they saw the car return to the area and again go on Route 8, Pierson said.

A Cuyahoga Falls officer saw the Akron officers following Walker's car and decided to follow as well. As Walker drove onto Route 8, the Falls officer's dash camera captured an image of Walker firing a shot, Pierson said.

"This officer's dash camera is the best vantage point to show Walker firing a round from his vehicle," Pierson said.

Pierson said officers chased Walker's car on Route 8 and then by foot when Walker jumped from his rolling car. During the foot pursuit, Pierson said Walker turned and faced the officers and reached into his hoodie and waist band, which officers took as indications that he might have been reaching for a weapon.

Pierson gave a step-by-step description of the moments before officers fired after Walker fled his car. This included still images of the officers' body-worn camera videos.

"As Mr. Walker turns at one particular point in time, he raises his arm out. At that point in time, he is shot by responding officers. The officers believed that Mr. Walker was a threat to them. They believed that he was a threat to themselves and other officers. As a result, he was shot," Pierson said.

Walker was 'hurting,' state investigator says

Pierson said Walker, who worked as a delivery driver, had no prior criminal history. He said Walker bought a gun about a week before his shooting.

Asked whether this might have been a suicide-by-cop scenario, Pierson said they don't have any clear evidence about this. Pierson did say, though, that Walker was having a difficult time after his fiancee had recently died.

"He was hurting," Pierson said. "That night, when he encountered police, he was not acting like himself. He was a good man, a good person."

Pierson said he "is not willing to make a leap" about Walker's intentions.

Yost, though, said people can examine all of the evidence in the BCI investigation that has been provided on the attorney general's website to draw their own conclusions about this and other questions they have about Walker's shooting.

Grand jury's decision doesn't mean end of Walker case

The grand jury’s decision won’t put an end to the Walker case.

The Akron Police Department will do an internal investigation to determine if the officers violated any internal policies and procedures.

Community members have requested that the Department of Justice and FBI investigate the shooting.

Walker’s family is expected to file a civil lawsuit against the city and officers.

Beacon Journal staff writers Betty Lin-Fisher, Tawney Beans and George Thomas contributed to this report.

Additional Jayland Walker coverage and timeline

BCI report: What the state investigation of fatal Akron police shooting may reveal

How grand juries work: What to know about the special grand jury

In-depth: Why police nationwide rarely face charges when they kill in the line of duty

Earlier coverage: What we still don't know in the Akron police killing of Jayland Walker

Jayland Walker: A look back at the Akron Beacon Journal's coverage since June 27

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at , 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Grand jury decision: No criminal charges for 8 Akron officers who shot Jayland Walker

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