The family attorney of Jayland Walker put a local police union on blast Wednesday morning for revealing that the 25-year-old was involved in a separate police chase a day before he was shot dead by Akron cops.
The attorney, Bobby DiCello, also said he’d formally sent a request to the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation into the death of Walker, who was shot 46 times by eight Akron police officers on June 27 as he fled a traffic stop.
DiCello claims the police union is colluding with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation, which he says has tainted the agency’s investigation into the involved officers.
The attorney, speaking at a press conference with Walker’s family, directed his comments at Clay Cozart, the president of the local police union. Cozart told local media this week that Walker had run from police in a separate incident the night before he was shot, and that’s why officers pursued him the night of his death.
But Cozart’s claim doesn’t line up with what Akron police have said about the incident. In multiple press releases after the shooting, the department said the pursuit was sparked by an alleged equipment violation.
“They weren’t chasing him just because of an equipment violation,” Cozart told News 5 in Cleveland.
Instead, Cozart says officers unsuccessfully chased Walker’s car the night before after initiating a stop for an equipment violation. When they spotted his car again on June 27, the union boss said Akron police still didn’t pursue Walker initially, but later decided to after the car entered a “high crime spot.”
Cozart defended the officers involved, saying they “made a decision based on their observations, their perceptions and they acted within the law.” He told News 5 that, beyond that, he would not release any further details about the situation.
These comments set off DiCello, who declared Wednesday that Cozart had turned himself into a witness in the case for his collusion with investigators or the cops involved.
“He said he didn’t want to get into the specifics of the shooting of my client, Jayland Walker,” DiCello said. “Now that’s interesting, he shouldn’t have any specifics, because last I checked he wasn’t involved in either the shooting or the operations of the city police department. So congratulations, Mr. Cozart, you’ve made yourself a witness.”
DiCello vowed to find out who “made Cozart a witness” by leaking information to him about the case. With this person unknown, DiCello said he’d already written a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation.
“All of the questions raise enormous concerns for the integrity of an investigation that the entire world is watching,” DiCello said.
The eight officers involved in Walker’s shooting remain unnamed and on administrative leave, but their personnel files were released to the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday, detailing the vast experience the officers had in the military, private security, and as police officers.
The files were heavily redacted to exclude personal information that could identify the officers, the paper reported. That’s because city attorneys said the officers could face “a substantial risk of serious bodily harm and possibly even death” should their names become public.
In total, the Beacon Journal tallied that the eight officers had 8,757 combined days of service with the Akron Police Department.
Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett says the names of officers involved won’t be released until Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost presents the case to a grand jury—a process that can reportedly take up to a year to occur.
In the meantime, weekly protests in Akron have demanded justice for Walker since his death, with the demonstrations escalating after body camera footage of the incident showed officers firing more than 90 rounds at the 25-year-old DoorDash driver.
After DiCello spoke Wednesday, he offered the podium to Walker’s mother, Pam Walker, to speak publicly about her son for the first time since his slaying. If he were still alive, Wednesday would have been his 26th birthday.
“I don’t usually do this type of thing, but just bear with me,” Pam said. “Right now, as you know, isn’t a good time for us, but today is a good day because it’s Jayland’s birthday.”
Pam fought back tears as she spoke about her son’s love for WWE wrestling and Stone Cold Steve Austin—his favorite wrestler of all. She said she once hired an actor to perform as the wrestler for one of Walker’s birthday parties, shocking him and his friends as he appeared along with the wrestler’s walk-up music.
“I can only go on memories,” she said. “I love you Jayland, I love you.”