AKRON, Ohio: Several hundred protesters marched Sunday in Akron, Ohio after the release of body camera footage that showed police fatally shooting a black man with several dozen rounds of bullets. As anger rose over the latest police killing of a black man in the United States, and authorities appealed for calm, a crowd marched to City Hall carrying banners with slogans such as “Justice for Jayland”.
The slogan refers to Jayland Walker, 25, who was killed Monday after officers tried to stop his car over a traffic violation, police said. Sunday marked the fourth straight day of protests in the city of 190,000 people. Demonstrations during the day were peaceful but for a tense moment in which some protesters got close to a line of police and shouted at them.
Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, denounced the shooting as “murder… point blank” as the civil rights group led a daytime rally. “This black man was killed… for a possible traffic violation. This doesn’t happen to white people in America,” he said in a statement, also slamming the police department’s response. Protests continued into the evening, with a hundred-strong crowd still in the streets in front of the justice center, an AFP reporter said.
Despite calls from some protesters for calm, tensions mounted as the night wore on. Some protesters set dumpsters alight and broke windows of the snowplows and other heavy equipment authorities had moved near the police department as a barrier in anticipation of unrest. Police in riot gear deployed and fired tear gas at the crowd to push it back from the justice center.
After initially providing few details of the shooting, Akron authorities released two videos Sunday: a compilation of body-camera footage, bodycam still frames and voiceover, and another of the complete body-cam footage of the entire chase and shooting. The voiceover explained that Walker did not stop and drove off. Police engaged in a car chase and said a shot had been fired from Walker’s vehicle.
After being chased for several minutes, Walker got out of his car while it was still moving and fled on foot. Officers tried to subdue him with their tasers, but he kept running. Several officers finally chased Walker to a parking lot. The bodycam footage is too blurry to see clearly what happens, but an initial police statement released after the shooting says Walker behaved in a way that caused officers to believe he posed a “deadly threat”. All of the officers at the scene opened fire on Walker, shooting multiple times in rapid succession. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The incident was the latest death of an African-American citizen at the hands of police, events that have sparked mass protests over racism and police brutality. “Many will wish to air their grievances in public, and I fully support our residents’ right to peacefully assemble,” Akron mayor Dan Horrigan told a press conference, saying he was “heartbroken” over the events. “But I hope the community can agree that violence and destruction are not the answer.” He also said an independent investigation was being conducted.
Bobby DiCello, a lawyer for the Walker family, told The New York Times: “I’ve been a trial lawyer for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to what that video is going to show.” Police chief Steve Mylett said he didn’t know the exact number of bullets fired at Walker, but the medical examiner’s report “indicates over 60 wounds to Mr Walker’s body”. He added that the eight officers involved in Walker’s death have been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete. Authorities canceled a festival planned for the July 4th Independence Day holiday weekend. Basketball star LeBron James, an Akron native, said in a tweet Sunday he was praying for his city. – AFP