Akron police officers not indicted in Jayland Walker shooting, grand jury rules
The eight Akron Police officers who fatally shot Jayland Walker will not be indicted.
A Summit County grand jury concluded that officers were legally justified in their actions, said Ohio Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost, during a press conference Monday.
There will be no state-level criminal charges, he said.
The decision means the jury, which was seated last week, found there was not enough credible evidence to suggest the officers could be charged with a crime. They evaluated each of the eight officers individually and went over possible charges with a special prosecutor from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). BCI handled the investigation into the shooting.
The grand jury was made up of three men and six women, the AG's office said. Two jurors were Black.
What BCI investigators found
Yost encouraged the public — especially those who don't trust the grand jury or the investigation — to review the evidence themselves.
"We’re putting everything out on the internet," he said. "If you go through the whole file, you’ll come to the same conclusion."
Ideastream Public Media will look through the records, including the summary of the Investigative report, which follows, to provide more information about the officers who were involved and what investigators found.
Access the full list of documents released by the Ohio Attorney General regarding Walker's killing here.
The special grand jury, which was made up of Summit County residents, reviewed evidence including testimony from experts, witness reports and audio and video recordings from the incident.
Investigators conducted more than 100 interviews, including of the eight officers who fired their weapons, according to Anthony Pierson, senior assistant attorney general.
They reviewed bodycam footage clips from the eight officers who fired their weapons and four officers who responded after and surveillance video from businesses and ring cameras in the area.
Walker, 25, had no criminal history and he delivered for DoorDash and Amazon, Pierson said.
In the month before his killing, Walker visited a firing range with a friend, according to the investigation. Two weeks later, he purchased the handgun police say they found in his car. Walker had virtually no prior experience with firearms, he said.
There is also evidence that Walker was also involved in a police pursuit that was called off for safety reasons the night before his killing, the AG said.
Officers fatally shot Walker, 25, after a car and foot chase in the early hours of June 27. Police say he fired a gun while getting on the highway during the pursuit. A shell casing was found on the entrance ramp and ballistics matched it to the gun recovered in his car, the AG's office said.
During the press conference, Pierson also showed stills from bodycam video that showed Walker exiting the vehicle in a ski mask. Officers told Walker not to run, he said.
"More than one officer attempted to use non-lethal force to stop Mr. Walker from fleeing," he said, as he showed slides he said showed officers trying to use a Taser to subdue Walker, but Walker continued to run.
"At this point in time, officers did not know where the gun was," Pierson said. "What they knew, is that Walker had fired at them."
He also showed video stills he said showed Walker turning toward officers.
Officers “believed he was a threat to them and other officers, as a result, he was shot,” Pierson said.
It was only discovered later that Walker didn’t have a gun on him.
Walker was wounded or grazed more than 46 times in the shooting, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner’s office. Officers fired 94 shots, according to Pierson.
Walker had no drugs or alcohol in his system, he said.
The investigation did not turn up any evidence that Walker was attempting to commit suicide by cop. But Pierson acknowledged it has been documented Walker was going through a tough time and said his finance had recently died.
"He was not acting himself," Pierson said, adding that Walker was a good man with no criminal record.
Reaction came quickly
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Police Chief Steve Mylett addressed the decision and took questions from the press in a news briefing at 5:30 at the Akron Water Reclamation Facility.
Horrigan and Mylett expressed their condolences and said they are keeping the Walker family in their prayers.
The grand jury’s decision indicates Akron Police did not “commit a crime when they encountered Mr. Walker,” Mylett said. “In no way does that take away from the tragedy of June 27th and the loss of such a young life,” he added.
Akron Police will not release the names of the officers involved in the shooting due to continued "threats" made against them, Mylett said.
Mylett made that decision based on guidance from the city's law department, he said.
The eight officers remain on administrative duty for the time being, he added.
The police department will now conduct an internal review of the incident to determine whether its policies and procedures were violated, he said. They may also evaluate whether any policies need to be "modified," Mylett said.
They are already looking into the department's police chase policies, he added.
The city will continue processing the decision in the coming weeks and protests will likely be part of that, Horrigan said.
He called for protesters to remain peaceful.
"Turn toward one another, and not on each other," Horrigan said.
He also asked "outsiders" to "stay home" as the community heals from the decision.
Mylett echoed Horrigan's calls for peace. If protests are deemed violent, such as if there are reports of property damage, police will ask protesters to leave. If people refuse to leave, officers will use "tools and resources at their disposal" to disperse the crowd, he said.
Akron activist group Freedom BLOC called the decision not to indict "an expected result to an unexpected murder," in a media release. "To be executed while unarmed, shot at close to 100 times, hit nearly 50 times, is a lynching."
The group expressed displeasure that officers involved were apparently allowed to testify said the grand jury's decision, which is supposed to be secret, appeared to have leaked early, pointing to the decision by Akron schools to let out early Monday and cancel classes on Tuesday.
"In a state full of more hate groups than any other state in the union, it’s no wonder we gained this result, but the sting of it persists along with the hope that we must keep alive for liberation," the group wrote. "The struggle for justice continues."
Walker's mother and sister, Pamela and Jada, as well as the family's attorney Bobby DiCello held a news conference at St. Ashworth Temple of Church of God in Christ on Vernon Odom Boulevard. Rep. Emilia Sykes attended, as did Judi Hill from the Akron branch of the NAACP and Ray Greene Jr. of Freedom BLOC.
"I am extremely disappointed in the presentation that had been shown today... I'm extremely disappointed in the manner in which the presentation seems to walk right past the legal principles that this family has been required to follow," said DiCello during the press conference.
"I wish you could have been in the home about 4:30 p.m. when I broke the news to the family. I wish you could have heard and felt and seen the screams."
Walker had been vilified in the media by the city, he said.
He took particular issue with the way protestors have been characterized.
For decades the city government has let down the community and for weeks it has tried to convince you that everything is ok — let the process play out," he said. "For generations, there has been bloodshed — senseless crazy bloodshed and for weeks we've heard, "Let's be peaceful. Don't get too angry."
Before anyone reached out to Walker's family, boards were put up on city buildings, "casting all of us that believe in justice as people who would rather destroy things than have fairness," Dicello said.
Speakers at the family press conference called for peace but said it was important for protestors to keep pressure on the city.
"I am not here to condone violence, but I am saying that you have a right to be righteously indignant from these results today," Greene said.
There are people in Akron who will not trust that this decision is legitimate, said Akron Ward 5 Councilmember Tara Mosley in a media release.
Mosley, one of seven candidates running for mayor, believes more should have been done to "give people faith in the process," including more transparency from the government in the immediate wake of Walker’s killing.
She also said that while the grand jury had concluded that there was not sufficient probable cause to criminally charge the officers who killed Walker, "they did not, and could not, decide that it was just to kill Jayland Walker, or that it was wise or right to kill Jayland Walker, or whether the law should change to better protect people like Jayland Walker."
That's up to the people of Akron, she said, who voted to create a Citizens’ Police Oversight Board and protested in favor of accountability.
U.S. Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, a Democrat representing Ohio's 13th district, said that too many routine traffic stops end in death.
"As this country and community reckons with another tragic death, we find ourselves yearning for a justice system that protects us all," she wrote in a media release.
Strong Sykes said she will formally request a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Akron Police Department.
State Representative Tavia Galonski, a Democrat whose district includes Akron, said she empathizes with Walker's family.
“I am the mother of a Black man. I cannot imagine the anguish the Walker family must be feeling as they continue to mourn and heal from the loss of their loved one, and I extend to them my deepest condolences,” she wrote in a media release.
Galonski, Mosley and Strong Sykes called for protests to remain peaceful.
Decision reopens wounds from last year
Walker’s death drew national attention and sparked protests and calls for police reform in Akron.
In the months after the shooting, residents collected signatures on a ballot initiative to create a civilian police oversight board that will monitor complaints brought against Akron Police. The review board passed by a vote of 62% in November and was seated in March of this year.
The Akron Police Department will now do an internal review of the shooting to determine whether officers followed the department’s policies, according to a city spokesperson.
Protests and vigils have already taken place in the days leading up to the decision and more demonstrations are planned in the coming days.
Akron prepares for the decision
Akron began preparing for the grand jury decision more than a week ago with plywood going up on some of the windows on the Municipal Building and concrete barriers put at standby at intersections on High Street around what's been designated by the city as a protest zone in front of the Stubbs Justice Center, which houses the Akron Police Department. By late last week, many fencing and barricades had gone up in front of the courthouse and the Stubbs Center and the windows and storefronts for a number of buildings in surrounding blocks had been boarded up.
Akron City Council had already announced that Monday's regularly scheduled meeting would take place via Zoom. Summit County Council canceled its April 17th meeting.
City Council conducted business as usual virtually with little discussion of the grand jury decision.
Jon Ashley, the pastor at Wingfoot Church, led a moment of silence to "acknowledge the pain in our community right now" ahead of his prayer.
At the conclusion of the meeting, At-Large Councilmember Linda Omobien offered prayers to the Walker family and "peace for the community."
The only member of council who mentioned Walker by name was Akron mayoral hopeful Shammas Malik of Ward 8. He called for council to react urgently.
"I hope we can find ways to make sure the Black residents of Akron are treated with fairness and respect in every aspect of life, and I hope we can honor Jayland Walker's life and his family and his legacy," he said.
Abbey Marshall and Gabriel Kramer contributed to this report.