The northeastern Ohio city of Akron is canceling public events for the coming holiday weekend amid protests over the police killing of a young Black man.
Dump trucks were being positioned across downtown streets on Friday to block traffic and a public festival was canceled ahead of anticipated mass protests in response to the killing of Jayland Walker, a Black delivery driver, by Akron police earlier this week.
Late Monday night, the 25-year-old Walker was shot and killed during a traffic stop for a claimed traffic violation that turned into a car and foot chase and ended in a hail of police bullets.
“While the vehicle was still moving, the suspect fled from the vehicle on foot,” says an Akron Police Department (APD) statement about the events from Tuesday morning. “Officers engaged the suspect in a foot pursuit in order to apprehend him. The suspect ran northbound into a nearby parking lot. Actions by the suspect caused the officers to perceive he posed a deadly threat to them. In response to this threat, officers discharged their firearms, striking the suspect.”
What their statement neglected to mention was that eight officers managed to fire more than 90 rounds at Walker, at least 60 of which struck his body. According to WKYC, which viewed photos of the autopsy on Wednesday, the bullet wounds covered the front of his body, from his face to his legs.
— Marcus Ferguson (@Ferg2006) July 1, 2022
A gun was found inside Walker’s car, but he was unarmed when police shot him.
According to APD, the officers involved have been placed on leave, pending the results of an internal investigation.
“Use of force cases are always ugly,” an unnamed police officer familiar with the shooting told WKYC on Wednesday. “This case is ugly times 10.”
Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett and Mayor Dan Horrigan are expected to “provide further details” at a news conference scheduled for Sunday afternoon, which will likely include footage of the incident from officers’ body-worn cameras. Walker’s family is expected to be shown the footage first.
On Thursday, Walker’s family held a presser at which they gave details about the victim.
“Jayland was a sweet, young man. He never caused any trouble. We don’t know what happened and we’d like to know,” said his aunt, Lajuana Walker Dawkins. She noted he worked for DoorDash and had no criminal record apart from a traffic ticket.
A small group of protesters gathered on Thursday and Friday outside APD headquarters and blocked traffic, carrying signs that read “Justice for Jayland” and “Jayland’s life matters.”
Protests continue at the Justice Center in downtown Akron (police HQ) over the death of Jayland Walker, who was shot and killed by police Monday. A small crowd has gathered so far. I’ll be here covering for @WKSU pic.twitter.com/de2woHvcfb
— Anna Huntsman (@AnnaHuntsman_) July 1, 2022
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” city resident Russel Fennell told the Akron Beacon Journal at the protest. “They did it because they knew they could get away with it. To me, this is worse than George Floyd.”
“Racism is racism. I guess in Akron it’s never going away,” he added.
The city of 190,000 is located in northeastern Ohio and earned the moniker “Rubber Capital of the World” in the 20th century due it being the headquarters of four major tire manufacturers.
However, the area has also been a hotbed of racism and resistance, once possessing the largest chapter of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group of any county in the US, and seeing major riots in 1900 and 1968, provoked by whites trying to lynch a Black man in police custody, and by Black residents rejecting militant police patrols in their neighborhoods, respectively.