© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Family of Jayland Walker files lawsuit against city of Akron

 The legal team for the family of Jayland Walker hugs his mom, Pam Walker.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
The legal team for the family of Jayland Walker has filed a lawsuit against the city of Akron on June 16, 2023.

The family of Jayland Walker has filed a lawsuit against the city of Akron. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, lists the defendants as the city, Mayor Dan Horrigan, Police Chief Steve Mylett, other department leaders and the eight officers who shot and killed Walker. The filing claims the officers used excessive force in their encounter with Walker, a 25 year old Black man, on June 27, 2022, and lacked justification to shoot him. It further argues that Walker's death was the product of a culture of systemic racism and violence in the police department.

 Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello stands behind a podium holding a copy of the family's lawsuit against the city of Akron.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello describes the lawsuit filed for the family against the city of Akron on June 16, 2023.

"Jayland Walker's death has been mischaracterized as his fault," Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello said.

Walker was shot and killed following a police chase, after officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop for a broken taillight and license plate light. He was unarmed at the time he was killed. The report from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation found officers fired more than 90 rounds at Walker, who was struck 45 times. The suit seeks at least $45 million in damages, $1 million for every bullet that struck Walker, the law firm representing the family said in a press release.

Attorneys for the family says the culture of racism and violence at the police department is demonstrated through a satirical newsletter run by city employees published in 1998.

"The story of how Jayland Walker died begins in that year, when this newsletter was circulated to officers within the Akron Police Department," DiCello said.

The newsletter, which has been filed as an exhibit in the lawsuit, likens Akron citizens to wild animals and contains violent and racist content.

"This is not even the rantings of an angry person or persons, it's the rantings of a hateful and violent person or persons," DiCello said.

Attorneys allege the newsletter's author, Terry Pasko, remained employed as a police officer until he retired as a captain in 2019, reflecting a lack of discipline within the department.

"I defy any rational human being to tell me what the context of this is if it's not hate speech, if it's not the most vile representation of the Akron community referring to people in this community as species," DiCello said.

He added that the suit goes beyond compensation for the Walker family and aims to seek meaningful change in the police department.

"This lawsuit is way bigger than Jayland Walker," DiCello said. "This lawsuit is a document that speaks for the I don't know how many people that have been arrested and mercilessly treated by your city police department. This document stands for them too, because this has been a systemic failure."

DiCello said the Akron Police Department is the most corrupt department he's ever seen.

The lawsuit also claims the police department doesn't train officers to deescalate or disengage from vehicle pursuits where people run away unarmed, nor does it discipline officers who shoot or kill people in these scenarios. The officers involved in the death of Walker returned to desk duty months after the incident, and their names have not been released publicly. This is something the Walker family's legal team has requested remain the same during the trial.

 Attorney Ken Abbarno stands behind a podium next to the Walker family and members of their legal team.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Attorney Ken Abbarno explains the decision to ask the court to keep the names of the eight officers involved in the shooting anonymous on June 16, 2023.

"We have filed a request with the court to allow those officers' names to be anonymous at this point," attorney Ken Abbarno said.

The decision now lies with the court and the city to decide to release the officers' names. This decision was made in hopes of helping focus attention on the case, DiCello explained.

"That whole thing has been a sideshow and a circus," DiCello said. "It has nothing to do with the death of Jayland Walker fundamentally, and we don't want that sideshow to become the issue here."

DiCello and the legal team did not take any questions regarding the lawsuit or the investigation, stating that everyone deserves a fair day in court.

In April, a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved. DiCello lambasted the BCI report that was released following the jury's decision.

"It's our hope that the attacks on Jayland are now seen for what they really were and what this entire charade of an investigation by the state into Jayland Walker's death has been: a cover up and a protection for the officers involved," DiCello said.

Walker's mother, Pam Walker, was present at a press conference on the lawsuit but decided not to speak, DiCello explained.

"She said this is not about the money," DiCello recounted. "This is about this never happening again, and this is about the dignity of my son."

Activists are planning a rally in Washington D.C. on the anniversary of the shooting, which will include renewed calls for a federal investigation into Akron police procedures.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the city said they do not comment on pending litigation.

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