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Jayland Walker legal team says investigation is "compromised," calls for DOJ to get involved

Walker family, legal team
Anna Huntsman
/
Ideastream Public Media
Bobby DiCello, attorney for Jayland Walker's family, addresses the media during a press conference July 20. DiCello criticized comments made by the police union's president to WEWS-TV in Cleveland, saying this has compromised the investigation into the police shooting that resulted in Walker's death.

The family and legal team of Jayland Walker held a press conference criticizing the ongoing investigation of Walker’s death on what would have been his 26th birthday Wednesday. Walker was wounded or grazed 46 times in a police shooting after a car and foot chase June 27.

Clay Cozart, president of Akron’s police union the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7, spoke to WEWS Monday about why officers decided to pursue Walker.

WEWS reported Cozart said officers knew about a previous chase involving Walker.

Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello said Cozart’s comments have compromised the investigation.

“Why are you trying to defend these officers, by creating and inserting new facts that had never been previously publicly disclosed?” DiCello said. “There’s no way for him to know what another person thinks. So he either made that up, or he’s being talked to, or he’s talking to them.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation into Walker’s death. DiCello is concerned that the police union is talking with BCI investigators, which he said could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.

“BCI was brought in to maintain some form of trust, some form of integrity, in this investigation. That’s what we were told,” he said. “Now, we are calling for the [U.S.] Department of Justice to replace the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.”

In a written statement, BCI spokesperson Steve Irwin said "no updates have or will be provided to the FOP president or any other parties."

“BCI shall remain steadfast in our commitment to independent investigations regarding officer involved shootings, and this case is no different," Irwin said in the statement. "The officers involved in the incident have a constitutional right to legal counsel like everyone else would in this situation. The family and the community deserves a thorough, independent investigation, and that is what they will get.”

Cozart did not immediately return Ideastream Public Media’s request for comment.

DiCello’s team sent a request to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an independent investigation of Walker’s death, DiCello said.

When asked if his team hired a private investigator, DiCello said there are many people working "behind the scenes for us."

Jayland Walker’s mother, Pamela, spoke to the media for the first time during Wednesday's conference. She shared that she was originally pregnant with twins but she miscarried Jayland's twin.

"He struggled coming into this world," Walker said. "Unfortunately, he had to leave this world the same way, but tragically."

She also shared a story from one of his birthday parties as a child. She said she hired a lookalike of his favorite WWE wrestler, Steve Austin, known as “Stone Cold,” to come to their house.

“Their mouths dropped to the ground, and they couldn’t say anything for a few minutes,” Walker said, smiling. “That’s one of the best memories I have of Jayland on his birthday.”

Pamela Walker Jayland birthday video
Anna Huntsman
/
Ideastream Public Media
As a video commemorating Jayland Walker's birthday plays, his mother, Pamela (seated), wipes a tear.

Family members also played a video that featured childhood photos of her son and video messages from Walker’s loved ones.

After the press conference, family members and loved ones sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Walker.

“Thank you all for coming out, and I love you Jayland. I love you,” Pamela Walker said, overcome with tears.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.