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Akron residents demand accountability, police reform after Jayland Walker shooting

Akron Freedom BLOC meeting
Anna Huntsman
/
Ideastream Public Media
The Rev. Ray Greene Jr. (center) meets with Akron community organizers at Freedom BLOC's headquarters on Tuesday. Freedom BLOC has submitted a list of demands to the city of Akron calling for accountability over the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker.

Feelings of disgust and determination are prevalent in Akron as the community calls for answers over the death of Jayland Walker, who was shot dozens of times by Akron police more than a week ago.

Protests over the weekend prompted Akron’s mayor Dan Horrigan to instate an overnight curfew, which was lifted Wednesday morning. About 50 people were arrested for charges of rioting and failure to disperse on Sunday, and local groups were at the jail Tuesday evening to deliver bail money they’d raised.

Protesters also were reportedly tear gassed by authorities from the sheriff’s office Tuesday night as they demonstrated outside the Summit County Jail.

Police fatally shot Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, after a vehicle and foot pursuit in the early hours of June 27. Police have said Walker shot a gun while he was driving. During the foot pursuit, eight officers shot him after “actions by the suspect caused the officers to perceive he posed a deadly threat to them,” according to police.

Walker was unarmed when he was killed, authorities have since said. The Summit County Medical Examiner’s office found more than 60 gunshot wounds on Walker’s body.

As the shooting is under investigation, community members are demanding both answers and accountability from the police. And now, instead of protesting, some residents are taking a different tack — demanding answers directly from public officials, said the Rev. Ray Greene Jr., a local organizer.

“We’re ready to put pressure on the right people," Greene said. "Instead of just marching down the street, yelling and screaming, we’re coming to see individuals that’s in charge with this happening. We need answers from the mayor, the public safety director, the prosecutor, city council.”

Greene is the executive director of Freedom BLOC, a local Black-led civil engagement group. The group has delivered a list of demands to the mayor’s office, which include firing and then prosecuting the eight officers who shot Walker.

The officers are currently on paid administrative leave, which resident Edmikia Minter also takes issue with.

“You can see that he was unarmed, and they did not care," she said. "So, I don’t feel like they should be getting paid with our tax dollars and stuff.”

IMG_8915.jpg
Anna Huntsman
/
Ideastream Public Media
Edmikia Minter (left) and Ali Coker participated in protests in Akron over the death of 25-year-old Jayland Walker. They are calling on city officials to take action, such as firing and prosecuting the eight officers involved.

Greene also wants the city to reform the department’s protocols for high-speed chases and traffic violations.

“Why are we high-speed chasing? This is 2022. We got cameras on the streetlights so you can see everywhere he’s going. Just go back, get the camera footage, and give him a ticket to him at his house. Send it to him in the mail,” Greene said. “We want to end high-speed chases and end the practice of pulling people over for traffic violations.”

That’s also been heavy on the mind of Akron resident Ali Coker.

“He was the same age as me," Coker said of Walker. "I feel hurt in a sense that it could have been me. I have a tail light out on my car right now. There’s no telling how that stop would have went for me.”

Freedom BLOC is also asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Akron Police Department, much like it did in Cleveland following the "137 shots" incident — another police pursuit that resulted in the death of two unarmed Black people.

Akron officials have declined to comment on Freedom BLOC’s demands. A protest is planned ahead of Monday’s city council meeting, where organizers plan to call for police reform.

Ultimately, Minter hopes that police and community members can work together on changing tactics and outcomes.

“We know all officers are not bad officers," she said. "We know that … But it’s hard to trust them when we’ve got stuff like this happening. Help us help y’all, how about that?”

Corrected: July 8, 2022 at 5:47 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story said Walker had been shot more than 60 times. The Summit County Medical Examiner’s office found more than 60 wounds on Walker’s body but has not determined how many are exit wounds.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.