A 'barbaric' killing: Jayland Walker's family attorney questions fatal police shooting

A family photo of Jayland Walker.
Jayland Walker. (Courtesy of Walker family)

Every Sunday, Jayland Walker, his sister, Jada, and their mother, Pamela, would gather for family time at Pamela’s Akron, Ohio, home. Pamela would always end the evening by standing in her doorway and she wouldn’t leave until she saw her son’s silver Buick drive away, praying that he returned home safe each time. She could never have imagined that the last Sunday in June would be the last time she saw her son.

Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, was killed by Akron police in the early morning hours of June 27 after an attempted traffic stop turned into a police pursuit, leaving family and loved ones confused about how a minor infraction could result in death. Given her weekly ritual, Pamela Walker questions why this happened at all.

“She asked me the other day, ‘Why did God let it happen?’” Bobby DiCello, an attorney representing the Walker family, told Yahoo News. “She feels forsaken by her own God. The very essence of her life has been erased for right now.”

Jayland Walker stands next to his sister and mother.
Jayland Walker with his sister, Jada Walker, and their mother, Pamela Walker. (Courtesy of Walker family)

Officials say the incident began after officers attempted to stop Walker for an unspecified traffic and equipment violation. Walker allegedly refused to stop, leading police on a nearly 20-minute car chase followed by a brief foot pursuit before his body was riddled with more than 60 bullets, according to officials.

Police say Walker fired one shot at them while in the car, though family members are skeptical of this assertion. Police also say that during the foot chase, they believed Walker was reaching toward his waist for a gun, which precipitated their gunfire.

About 100 bullets were discharged from at least eight of the 13 responding officers’ guns, according to officials. Walker was unarmed at the time he was killed, though Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett says a gun was recovered from his car after the shooting. DiCello said Akron police do not have dashcams on their cars, which only enhances the skepticism about the details of the incident, including the early moments of the attempted traffic stop.

The eight officers who discharged their weapons have been placed on administrative leave in accordance with department policy.

Police in riot gear stand by as demonstrators gather.
Members of the sheriff’s department stand by as demonstrators gather outside Akron City Hall to protest the killing of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, on July 3. (Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images)

In a joint statement, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, a Democrat, and Mylett called the shooting a “dark day for our city.”

“We know that no police officer ever wants to discharge their service weapon in the line of duty,” the statement read in part. “Tragically, we are once again faced with a young man, with his life before him, gone too soon. ... We are keeping our promise to the community, understanding that there can be no trust without transparency and follow-through on commitment.”

Akron police declined to comment further on the matter to Yahoo News, saying the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is continuing the investigation.

Steve Irwin, press secretary for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, in which the BCI office sits, told Yahoo News that “BCI is often called upon to provide investigation of third-party incidents involving police officer-involved shootings and our track record speaks for itself. The criminal investigation remains ongoing.”

In a statement provided to Yahoo News, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost promised the community of Akron an objective, professional and independent investigation.

“When the investigation is complete, and the case is adjudicated, we will be fully transparent,” Yost said in part. “This case file will be available to the public on the web as soon as we are legally allowed to share it.”

Portions of body camera footage released Sunday from the 13 responding officers has led to more questions than answers. In one video, a quick pop can be heard and an officer reports gunfire coming from Walker’s car door. No gunfire can be seen in the video, but additional footage, presented at a news conference, appears to show a flash coming from the driver’s side of Walker’s car.

Bodycam footage shows Akron police behind a car.
Akron, Ohio, police bodycam footage from the pursuit and shooting of Jayland Walker on the morning of June 27. (Akron Police)

Even if these facts hold true, DiCello says that at an earlier meeting with the police chief and Walker’s family, the chief said there had been no evidence the officers’ lives had been threatened.

DiCello believes that the officers, if anyone, were the instigators in the situation. He says that in video footage he viewed that has not been publicly released, officers continue to shoot Walker’s lifeless body.

“The video that we will put in court, if necessary, will show his body flinching as it gets hit as it lays on the ground,” DiCello said. “This was a barbaric rabid killing, this was not an exercise in de-escalation. This was not an exercise in the preservation and the protection of human life, which is what law enforcement is all about.”

Walker was handcuffed behind his back when his body arrived at the coroner’s office to be processed, according to the medical examiner’s report reviewed by CNN.

A protester holds a sign reading: Justice for Jayland Walker.
Protesters gather to call for justice in the police killing of Jayland Walker. (Karla Cota Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A little over a week after the shooting, Walker’s family remains overcome by grief, confused about his killing and frustrated that no one has been held accountable.

Jada Walker told “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that hearing sirens or seeing cars that resemble her brother’s Buick remain triggering for her.

“I just want to know, what was the reason?” she said. “Why you had to resort to him being gunned down in such a manner?”

Protests over Walker’s killing have grown daily since his death, with the largest taking place Sunday. Hundreds of people took to the streets with signs reading “Justice 4 Jayland” and “Black Lives Matter,” along with corresponding chants, just hours after police released body camera video. At least 50 people were arrested later that night for failing to disperse, according to Horrigan. As a result, a curfew for downtown Akron was implemented for Monday and Tuesday evening. The curfew was lifted on Wednesday.

A shirtless man gestures toward troopers in riot gear during a protest.
A man gestures toward troopers in riot gear during a protest over the killing of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, on July 3. (Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images)

Walker’s family has asked that protests remain peaceful as they fight for more answers.

DiCello questions why even one bullet was fired by police in the first place.

“[Police] cannot explain why more than 90 bullets left eight guns,” he said. “The law is that each bullet must be accounted for. And that’s exactly why I’m here. ... What I’ve realized is we all could be duped into thinking that the question is, ‘Did Jayland have a clean enough prior seven minutes to not die?’

“That is morally wrong,” he added. “The conversation when an American runs away from the police is, ‘Does he need to die for it?’ Regardless of the prior seven minutes, the law says absolutely not.”


Cover thumbnail photo: Rodolfo Valdivia Aceves (Bexar County Jail)