Gruesome videos, Jayland Walker's motions intensify debate; attorney disputes city's claims

Doug Livingston
Akron Beacon Journal

Jayland Walker was unarmed, wearing a ski mask and running from his car when bullets instantly dropped him in a parking lot at Wilbeth Avenue and Main Street.

In the next six seconds while laying on the asphalt, Walker’s body twitched and rolled as eight Akron police officers fired 90 or more rounds that hit the 25-year-old Black man 60 or more times, according to a preliminary coroner’s investigation that has yet to match all the bullets and holes. Tasers also were deployed, according to police.

These grisly and critical details were confirmed Sunday in the city’s partial release of body-worn camera footage during a press conference at the Firestone Park Community Center, located less than a half-mile from the fatal June 27 shooting.

Graphic content warning:Body camera videos show shooting death of Jayland Walker

At the meeting for journalists, who were given the location just two hours prior as protests continued for a fifth day downtown, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett detailed — for the first time — why officers mistakenly suspected that Walker was armed, as well as the motion Walker made that led officers to fear for their lives.

This still image from police body camera footage shows a police officer pointing a gun at Jayland Walker.

He released information, but not names, on the eight officers involved. Their service ranges from 1½ to six years, with five at the 2½-year mark. Seven are white. One is Black. And one is female.

None has prior discipline, a substantiated complaint or a fatal shooting on his or her record, though the city of Akron has yet to provide their full personnel files per a records request made by the Beacon Journal on Tuesday, June 28.

Akron also has not released a standard incident report requested on Tuesday, June 28, and required to be released immediately under Ohio law.

Video replay:Watch Akron's press conference on death of Jayland Walker

Walker’s family and city officials have remained united in calling for protests to remain peaceful in Akron this holiday weekend.

But following the press conference, the Walker family's attorneys spoke to reporters outside the community center and disputed key facts.

The attorneys criticized police for "wanting to turn (Walker) into a masked monster with a gun" while assembling footage to fit a narrative that supports the use deadly force.

Attorney Bobby DiCello, representing Jayland Walker's family, shows a photo of Walker before DiCello and his legal team give statements Sunday after the Akron press conference.

"The law requires the use of force that is reasonable," attorney Bobby DiCello said. "We've heard numbers as high as 95 shells on the ground. You'll see if you review this video over and over again, an officer drains his clip and reloads."

Sandra Dees, left, and Marquita Carter stand tearfully in front of the Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center on Sunday after viewing the bodycam footage of Jayland Walker's fatal shooting by Akron police.
A protester holds a photo of Jayland Walker after police released bodycam footage Sunday of the 25-year-old's fatal shooting.

When shown the video last week before its public release, DiCello said Mylett wasn't so sure that Walker threatened officers.

"When we were in the church, and I'll say exactly what was said to me," DiCello said. "The chief said he did not see the movement that put the officers in fear."

'A routine traffic stop' turns deadly for Jayland Walker

During the press conference, Mylett aired two videos for reporters and television news cameras. The first was an edited, annotated and narrated assembly of video clips and frozen frames that builds a sequence of events. The second video showed the view from the officer in Car 24, from the time it tried to pull over a silver Buick sedan on Tallmadge Avenue around 12:30 a.m. to the fatal shooting at 12:37 a.m.

“I’m not sure what the equipment violation was or what the traffic violation was,” said Mylett, who explained that he’s “walled off” from an external review of the case by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“BCI will discover that in the course of their work,” the chief said.

“What was going to be a routine traffic stop, which would probably result in a warning or a citation being issued, turned into a pursuit,” Mylett said.

Jayland Walker chase:Here's what Akron police were saying and hearing before shooting Akron man

Forty seconds into the chase, Walker turned south from Tallmadge Avenue onto state Route 8, according to traffic camera footage from the Ohio Department of Transportation. The body-worn camera footage of the officer in Car 24 captures the sound of a bang.

In this still image captured from video, the Akron Police Department has circled what authorities believe to be a flash of light from a discharged gun from the car Jayland Walker was driving during a police chase.

In a frozen video frame of the ODOT footage, a large red arrow in the narrated police video points to what appears to be a flash of light. Police believe the flash is Walker discharging a handgun, which was later found in the vehicle with the clip removed.

“That changes the whole nature of the traffic stop,” Mylett said. “It went from being a routine traffic stop to now being a public safety issue.”

After the incident, investigators returned to that on-ramp and recovered a shell casing consistent with the handgun in Walker’s car, Mylett said.

The officer in Car 24 radios in “shots fired.” A couple miles down Route 8, he gets on the radio.

"Take caution," he tells other officers preparing to intercept Walker off the highway. "He was grabbing for a gun, and he did fire a shot out the side of the door.”

Walker continued south on Route 8 at about 70 mph. He took the Archwood Avenue exit and made six turns through a residential Firestone Park neighborhood. Heading west at about 55 mph on Wilbeth Avenue, he faced a police barricade near the Bridgestone Americas Center for Research and Technology.

Here, the video shows officers surrounding Walker’s slow-moving car as he bolts from the passenger door with a ski mask on. Police pursue from their vehicles on the street and devil strip, taking multiple angles at Walker, who turns to evade an officer and briefly faces another.

This still image from a police body camera video shows Jayland Walker wearing a ski mask and running out of his car before he is fatally shot by Akron police.

In that moment, Mylett said a “picture captures a forward motion of his arm. After

(the shooting), the officers involved, they immediately get sequestered from one another. And they are monitored. When the investigative team arrives, they do an individual walkthrough of the crime scene.

“Each officer, independent of each other, related that they felt Mr. Walker had turned and was motioning and moving into a firing position. So, again, BCI is going to do the investigation. I’m not pre-judging it. And I’ll leave it there.”

Akron Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the officers, said it's confident the investigation will prove the actions, including the number of shots fired by the officers, were justified.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Sunday its Civil Rights Division was "closely monitoring" the Walker case, while local Black elected leaders have asked for a federal investigation.

Jaylan Walker family's attorneys respond to Akron press conference

DiCello, the family attorney, thanked the chief for releasing the footage Thursday before it was made available to the public per city law. DiCello, his co-counselors and the family's pastor watched the grisly images on behalf of the family.

But DiCello said the way in which the footage was presented to them in a church differed from the edited video Chief Mylett showed the public in the press conference Sunday afternoon.

“I’m sad that we began this presentation precisely the way that the law will not allow,” DiCello told reporters after the city concluded its press conference. “I want you to know that when I go to court for this family, the judge will look at me and say, ‘You are not allowed, lead counsel, to look at a shooting like an armchair quarterback. You’re not allowed to look back at the shooting for the end of the story and give snapshots in time.’”

“I’m not allowed to do that in court,” DiCello said. “I’m disappointed I saw that today.”

Co-counsel Ken Abbarno criticized investigators for not taking statements from the officers by Sunday, after which the officers can watch the videos on the police department's YouTube channel before being interrogated by state investigators.

In previous investigations by BCI, which the Beacon Journal has reviewed, officers involved in shootings are not interviewed for three or more weeks after the incident. That doesn't make sense, Abbarno said.

The media sets up Sunday at Firestone Park Community Center for a press conference about the police shooting death of Jayland Walker.

“The freshest time for people to remember the most critical details about what happened is after the actual time that it happened,” Abbarno said. “Witness statements are best taken just then. Witness statements are not best taken perhaps after someone has the opportunity, if in fact this happens, to watch the video frame by frame in slow motion and then remember the events afterwards.”

Based on what they’ve reviewed and what they heard Sunday, lawyers also questioned why a medical examiner report places the gun in the back seat when police provided a photograph Sunday of the weapon and magazine clip resting on the front seat with a wedding ring.

DiCello also confirmed that New Franklin police tried to stop Walker the night before he died, which Clay Cozart, president of the police union in Akron, said officers were aware of when they pursued Walker the next night.

New Franklin officers abandoned their pursuit when Walker reached the Coventry Township border.

'He still has a pulse,' Akron officer says after shooting

Mylett also detailed officers' efforts to save Walker after shooting him more than 60 times, which attorney DiCello said was a "hopeless effort."

"One officer can be heard saying he still has a pulse," Mylett told the press. In other footage following the shooting, Mylett said officers try to load Walker into a cruiser to get him to the hospital before the ambulance arrives.

Meanwhile, a sergeant in the video is asking for a show of officers who fired their weapons so they could be sequestered.

But Mylett did not respond directly to a question about how Walker was secured, which included handcuffs, according to the medical examiner's report. DiCello, who indicated he has seen longer versions of the videos than Akron police made available Sunday, said officers flipped Walker onto his back and began administering aid while the unarmed, fatally wounded man was handcuffed.

'We don’t treat animals that way':Jayland Walker's family demands police accountability

None of this can be confirmed in the footage the city released Sunday. City law only requires the prompt release of video that includes at least a minute of footage prior to the use of deadly force, and nothing after.

Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett speaks during Sunday's press conference as Mayor Dan Horrigan looks on.

The body-worn camera clips of the eight officers involved were posted on a YouTube channel hosted by the Akron Police Department. Each clip runs about a minute.

None capture what happened after the firing. That isn't required by "whatever the ordinance provides," which is what Mayor Dan Horrigan said is all that would be released Sunday.

Reach reporter Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.

Community leaders, including Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville, right, listen to Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan during the press conference Sunday at the Firestone Park Community Center.