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Ohio officers won't face state charges in fatal shooting of Jayland Walker, Black man who was shot more than 40 times

Officers not charged in Jayland Walker death
Officers not charged in Jayland Walker's death 02:47

An Ohio grand jury decided eight Akron police officers were legally justified in the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Black man last year and won't face charges, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Monday. Jayland Walker was killed by police after fleeing a traffic stop in June.

Police released body camera footage showing him dying in a hail of gunfire. When officers tried to pull Walker over for minor equipment and traffic violations, police say he fired a shot from his car 40 seconds into the pursuit.

The state investigation found that police first saw Walker driving with a broken taillight and a broken light on his rear license plate, but they decided not to follow him. They saw him 10 minutes later at the same intersection and decided to pursue him for the equipment violation, Yost said.

Officers chased the car on a freeway and city streets until Walker bailed from the still-moving vehicle, ignored officers' commands and ran into a parking lot where he was killed while wearing a ski mask, bodycam video showed. Authorities said he represented a "deadly threat." A handgun, a loaded magazine and a wedding ring were found on the driver's seat of his car.

Walker reached for his waistband as officers were chasing and raised his hand, Yost said. The officers, not knowing he left his gun in the car, believed he was firing again at them, Yost said.

Yost said it is critical to remember that Walker had fired at police, and that he "shot first."

Dashcam video from a police cruiser captured images of Walker firing the gun from his car, said Anthony Pierson, an assistant state attorney general.

"There is no doubt he did in fact shoot at police officers," Yost said.

Walker had no criminal history and had never fired a gun until he went to a shooting range with a friend in early June, Pierson said.

Walker's family called it a brutal and senseless shooting of a man who was unarmed at the time and whose fiancée recently died. Police union officials said the officers thought there was an immediate threat of serious harm and that their actions were in line with their training and protocols.

The blurry body camera footage did not clearly show what authorities say was a threatening gesture Walker made before he was shot. Police chased him for about 10 seconds before officers fired from multiple directions, a burst of shots that lasted 6 or 7 seconds.

A county medical examiner said Walker was shot at least 40 times. The autopsy also said no illegal drugs or alcohol were detected in his body.

The eight officers, whose names have been withheld from the public, initially were placed on leave, but they returned to administrative duties 3 1/2 months after the shooting.

Attorneys for the eight officers released a statement calling the incident a tragedy for the entire community, including Walker's family and all of the officers who were involved. "A split-second decision to use lethal force is one that every police officer hopes he or she will never be forced to make," the statement said.

Less than 24 hours before the chase, police in neighboring New Franklin Township had tried to stop a car matching Walker's, also for unspecified minor equipment violations. A supervisor there called off the pursuit when the car crossed the township's border with Akron.

Walker's death received widespread attention from activists, including from the family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The NAACP and an attorney for Walker's family called on the Justice Department to open a federal civil rights investigation. 

President Biden responded during a trip to Ohio last summer by saying the DOJ was monitoring the case.

Ahead of the grand jury meeting, city leaders met with community leaders, church groups, activists and business owners and prepared for potential protests. The city created a designated protest zone downtown outside the city hall building, where workers put plywood over the first-floor windows. There's also temporary fencing around the county courthouse.

In anticipation of Monday's announcement, Akron's public schools were closed and after-school activities will be canceled Tuesday "to help ensure the safety of our scholars and staff," interim Superintendent Mary Outley said in a statement. The University of Akron announced Monday evening's classes would be moved to remote instruction and on-campus events were canceled.

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