Reactions from community leaders to the Jayland Walker video footage released Sunday came quickly and with strongly worded messages condemning Akron police.
Walker died after being shot multiple times June 27 by Akron police officers following a brief chase.
“He was outgunned, outmanned,” Akron NAACP President Judi Hill said Sunday. “There’s just no reason for any of this. They knew there was only one person in that vehicle.”
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“There’s no way that anyone who sees this video is not going to be angry,” she said. “There’s no way. Let’s just put that out there first. I just hope we use our anger in a constructive manner so as we move forward we can do it to make change, because that’s what we need. We have to change the narrative.”
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The Rev. Ray Greene Jr., executive director of Freedom BLOC, a political organization, echoed Hill's thoughts.
"They murdered him. Yeah, they murdered him," he said. "There’s no other way to put it. It was cold-blooded murder."
Akron police judgment called into question
Based on what he saw in the video, Walker, who police attempted to pull over for a equipment violation, should have been allowed to go, Greene said.
"There are so many things that common sense should tell you over police training. He was running away. You have his car," he said. "You can catch him another day and instead, they murdered him in cold blood, and that’s what I witnessed … That’s stuff you only see in movies."
Bernie King offers opinion
As the footage was released, viewers expressed their horror and anger on social media with some describing the scene as “unfathomable” and calling it an “execution.”
Others, including Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged people to not watch the video.
“Too much trauma, too many triggers (psychologically and literally),” King wrote. “We’ve seen devastating horrors. We’ve endured generational cruelty. Lift his family up.”
I encourage you to not watch the video.
Too much trauma, too many triggers (psychologically and literally).
We’ve seen devastating horrors.
We’ve endured generational cruelty.
Lift his family up. pic.twitter.com/Vz36VwJdRc
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) July 3, 2022
Changing that narrative means ensuring that incidents such as these are not normalized, Hill said. That includes not blaming the victim.
“They already think this is OK, we’ve got to change that,” Hill said. “They can hide behind the law. That’s got to change.”
Jayland Walker death affects community relations
It's a view Akron Juneteenth coordinator and community activist Fela Sutton shares.
The exasperation and frustration can be heard in her voice.
Sutton said the annual Juneteenth gathering and its leadership recently welcomed recruiters for the Akron Police Department to the event.
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“It’s hard to process and it’s hard to trust, and you can’t build community relations doing things like that,” she said during a phone conversation.
However, after days of rumors which caused her tears on occasion, the video confirmed her worse fears.
“What I knew from a week ago is there is no reason to shoot somebody 60 times,” she said. “There’s no good reason, and the video confirmed that. He was fleeing when he was shot.”
Sutton planned to leave her home to provide assistance and ensure that protests remained as peaceful as possible Sunday. She doesn’t believe that holding a sign and yelling will do much good at this point. As for the community at large?
“I know I’m a level-headed person. I know better than to go outside and start getting upset,” she said. “That’s why we’re volunteering to help people who may not be so good with holding their emotions, and I don’t fault them for not knowing how to deal with this.”
She, however, is all cried out. She just wants the problem fixed.
"The problem starts down at the police station unfortunately," she said. "That’s why they have it blocked off. That’s not going to keep those people from going down there. People are upset."
"They have every right to be upset and I don’t know how they will respond, and I don’t judge them for whatever they do. We just try to assist people and aid folks so they don’t hurt themselves and they don’t get into unnecessary clashes with the obviously murderous APD."
Church leaders want to bring peace
The Rev. R. Stacey Jenkins, pastor at the House of Prayer for All People in Akron, said he also plans to join protests Sunday “to try to bring peace to people who are hot.”
Jenkins, who said he knows Walker's mother personally, was at rallies Saturday where he said protesters were waiting for the footage to be released “almost like a ticking time bomb.”
“Nothing can bring him back, but we can honor his life by seeing some quality change in how we police,” Jenkins said in a phone conversation after the footage was released to the public.
His first reaction to the footage was "horror," and he added that "they don't shoot an animal like that." Jenkins' main concern is that he did not see any evidence of Walker threatening police or of police using deescalation techniques in the video.
“It sounded like fireworks, and for me, that hurts me,” Jenkins said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Akron Police Department, for their jobs and for them as a whole. I think in this instance, I would respect them better if they would say, ‘We made a mistake.’ If they would say, ‘Maybe we shouldn't have used so much force.’”
Before the press conference, Lorenzo Glenn, pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church in Akron, spoke about justice with his congregants.
“To see a young man, 25 years old, shot down like he was a wild, ravenous animal and justice has to come but not before judgment,” he said during Sunday’s service.
“Somebody has to be accountable. Somebody has to pay for the wrongdoing," Glenn said. "I’m not looking for nothing from the police department. I’m not looking for nothing from the mayor. I’m not looking for nothing from the governor. I’m looking for something from the Lord. He will execute the judgment and righteousness in the land.”
Rep. Emilia Sykes speaks out
State Rep. Emilia Sykes said the footage was “hard to watch and left more questions than answers” in a tweet Sunday afternoon. She renewed her call for a swift and thorough investigation.
The body camera footage depicting the death of #JaylandWalker was hard to watch & left more questions than answers. I renew my call for the Ohio BCI to conduct a swift & thorough investigation in order to help this community to heal & prevent this from occurring again.
— Emilia Sykes (@EmiliaSykesOH) July 3, 2022
LeBron James offers prayers
Minutes before Akron police and Mayor Dan Horrigan hosted the press conference, LeBron James commented on the death of Walker in his hometown.
"I [praying hands] for my city today!" he tweeted.
I 🙏🏾 for my city today!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 3, 2022
His tweet was followed by a statement from The LeBron James Family Foundation, who said their work was to "bring people together in positive and peaceful ways."
"This starts with justice and accountability first and continues with love family and coming together to create change," the foundation wrote.
Akron is our home and it is our daily work to build up and bring people together in positive and peaceful ways, which is what we will support today and always. This starts with justice and accountability first and continues with love, family, and coming together to create change.
— LeBron James Family Foundation (@LJFamFoundation) July 3, 2022
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Leaders call Jayland Walker's APD shooting death 'murder'