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Police on Sunday released bodycam footage of the shooting of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old black man in Akron, Ohio. The incident, which occurred early in the morning on June 26, has already ignited controversy.
Hundreds of protesters marched on Sunday, demonstrating against the shooting and police violence. During the day, the protests were peaceful, but there was some unrest at around 10 p.m. according to Cleveland 19 News. Someone reportedly set fire to a dumpster that was extinguished by a good Samaritan. Police used tear gas to disperse pockets of protesters who were demonstrating overnight.
The incident started when officers attempted to pull Walker over for a traffic violation. The suspect refused to pull over and led officers on a chase that reached 80 miles per hour at times. In a statement, the officers on the scene “reported a firearm being discharged from the suspect vehicle.” The footage appears to show a muzzle flash coming from Walker’s vehicle before he stopped and fled on foot. Later, officers found a handgun in Walker’s car with a spent bullet casing.
As officers gave chase, two attempted to use their non-lethal tasers to stop the suspect, who was also wearing a ski mask at the time. But shortly after, Walker appears to turn towards the eight officers, who opened fire, killing him. The officers fired 90 rounds, about 60 of which hit the suspect. The video shows the officers continuing to fire at Walker for about three to five seconds after he is on the ground. He was unarmed at the time he ran from the vehicle.
Robert DiCello, an attorney representing Walker’s family, criticized the officers, accusing them of going too far. “You see two officers deploy their tasers. You don’t notice it, but you learn later that that’s what happens because tasers don’t make a big bang sound,” he said. “All a sudden, without warning, and for no reason that I can discern on the video — there’s no hand gestures, there’s no stopping, there’s no turning, there’s no motion, there’s no anything — he (Walker) seems to be turning over his left shoulder to look and then gunfire erupts.”
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
DiCello claimed Walker had only recently purchased his firearm. “Jayland was not familiar with firearms, and we do not know if it accidentally fired,” he said. “But police did find no bullets in the handgun when they found it in the car after his death.”
During a press conference, law enforcement did not indicate whether the gun was unloaded, but did say there was a loaded magazine on the seat. Akron Police Chief Stephen L. Mylett insisted that Walker had turned quickly toward the officers and made a motion toward his “waist area,” which officers interpreted as a threat.
Critics of the officers argue that firing so many shots was excessive use of force. They also question why the officers continued to shoot Walker after he was already clearly incapacitated. The fact that the suspect was a black man has intensified hostilities even further, with activists insisting the shooting was racially-motivated.
This incident, while tragic, is not the same as what we saw in cases like Amir Locke, Walter Scott, and George Floyd. The footage does show that Walker fired at least one shot before stopping his car and fleeing. Even after being shot at, the officers attempted to use non-lethal means to stop the suspect. Being that it was dark outside, they could not have known he had left his pistol in his vehicle. At this point, it was reasonable to assume he was a threat, which is why they fired at him.
But it is also worth noting that shooting 90 rounds between eight officers is excessive, as critics have pointed out. In this case, there did not appear to be a reason to fire so many rounds. The fact that they continued to fire after Walker was already down is also a bad look, which could lead to at least some of these officers losing their jobs. However, it is unlikely that any of them will be convicted of a crime given that Walker fired at them first.
These details will be the ammo the anti-police crowd will use to paint Walker’s killing as the result of racial bigotry on the part of the officers involved. On social media, high-profile leftists are already accusing the officers of racial bias and focusing on the high number of bullets fired. So far, I have seen none of them mention the fact that Walker fired the first shot – and I don’t expect to. It is a factoid that is inconvenient to the narrative they are already spinning.
This situation is bad enough without being hyper-politicized. But in this case, it will be exceedingly difficult to paint Walker as an innocent victim. However, this does not mean the left won’t still try to exploit the shooting.