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Tribal Trauma Triage urges peace after grand jury issues no indictments in Jayland Walker killing

Deputy Mayor and mayoral candidate Marco Sommerville speaks with Black religious leaders.
Alexandra Golden
Ideastream Public Media
Deputy Mayor and mayoral candidate Marco Sommerville urged protestors to be peaceful during a press conference held by Tribal Trauma Triage on April 18, 2023.

Black religious leaders are urging protesters to stay peaceful as the community reacts to a grand jury’s decision not to indict the eight officers involved in the death of Jayland Walker.

Members of the Black leadership team Tribal Trauma Triage spoke of the importance of healing and stability in the community after the grand jury’s decision.

Akron is already on the right path, Deputy Mayor and mayoral candidate Marco Sommerville said.

“After the verdict yesterday, it’s the first step of healing, so we are in a healing process after even one day," Sommerville said. "And as we go forward, we just need to make sure we keep the Jayland Walker family in our prayers.”

Pastor Michael Murphy Sr. speaks in front of members of Tribal Trauma Triage.
Alexandra Golden
Ideastream Public Media
Pastor Michael Murphy Sr. talks about the racial trauma the Black community in Akron is experiencing on April 18, 2023.

Pastor Michael Murphy Sr. of Prevail Church has one message for protesters.

“Lift your voice. Let your feelings be known. Do it in a nonviolent way," Murphy said.

Protests Monday night led to six arrests according to the Akron Police Department. Murphy said he's worried about negative interactions between Black protesters and the police.

"We can't impede traffic. We can't assault other citizens. We can't throw objects. We can't have destruction of property," Murphy said. "Those are the things that we're asking for."

Bishop Joey Johnson of The House of the Lord said he understands why protestors feel upset.

Bishop Joey Johnson speaks in front of members of Tribal Trauma Triage.
Alexandra Golden
Ideastream Public Media
Bishop Joey Johnson speaks about the reason protestors are upset over the grand jury's on April 18, 2023.

"I stand to say that trauma, grief and anger are normal human responses to these tragic circumstances," Johnson said, "and I think that sometimes when we're asking people to be calm and for peace in a certain way, we're not allowing them to have normal, human emotions."

The racial problems in Akron are bigger than the grand jury’s decision, Stephen Muhammad of Muhammad’s Mosque 37 said.

“My question for our community is: If it had been a different result, what would have changed for you and me?" Muhammad said. "And I’m not sure if anything would have been specifically different, because we have serious concerns where we live.”

Stephen Muhammad speaks in front of members of Tribal Trauma Triage.
Alexandra Golden
Ideastream Public Media
Stephen Muhammad speaks about the needs of the Black community moving forward on April 18, 2023.

The community needs to address the mental health needs of the Black community and begin to heal from racial trauma, Muhammad said. At a press conference on Monday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Anthony Pierson said the investigation did not find any evidence that Walker was attempting to commit suicide by cop, but he did say Walker was going through a tough time after the recent death of his fiancé and was not acting like himself.

"I thought, 'Well, I don't know about that, but I know depression and suicide among our young people ages 10 through 35 is the number one cause of death,'" Muhammad said. "So these are the things I'm hoping that from this event we will pull from it."

Murphy said the community needs to take care of themselves and the Walker family.

"We can't ignore the trauma that they have, but we have collective trauma as well," Murphy said. "And so we need to deal with this because we still need to move forward as a family."

Sommerville lent support to Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes who is requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the Akron Police Department.

"It wouldn't be a bad look to have them come in, look and see if they see some things that we might not have saw and ways to improve the department," Sommerville said. "They have a lot of great resources in the Department of Justice that we can use as a training tool for police officers."

The religious community is planning several prayer vigils this week, including an event Tuesday hosted by Love Akron at 6:00 p.m. in the Downtown designated protest zone.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.