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Akron police internal investigation finds officers were justified in shooting of Jayland Walker

Protesters hold up red carnations in a silent protest for Jayland Walker.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Protesters hold up red carnations in a silent protest for Jayland Walker outside the Stubbs Justice Center in Downtown Akron on Monday, April 24, 2023.

An internal investigation by the Akron Police Department has found that the eight officers involved in the shooting death of Jayland Walker were justified in their actions, according to an executive summary by Chief Steve Mylett.

Walker was shot and killed by Akron police officers on June 27, 2022, after failing to pull over for a traffic stop and leading police on a car and foot chase. His death led to outrage and protests in the city, calling for racial justice and police accountability. Voters passed a charter amendment in November 2022 creating the Citizens' Police Oversight Board to monitor police conduct. A special grand jury declined to press charges against the eight officers involved in the shooting. The officers have been back on active duty since October.

The department's internal investigation has been ongoing since the grand jury's decision was released last April, Mylett said, with the intent to determine if any department policies or procedures were violated during the shooting.

"In my opinion, the use of deadly force was in compliance with the policies of the City of Akron Police Department," he wrote in the executive summary, adding that the use of force was "objectively reasonable" based on the evidence presented to the grand jury.

The department's use of force policy follows the law set by the United States Supreme Court, with the standard that allows for use of deadly force in instances where an officer is at imminent risk of bodily harm or death, Mylett wrote.

"I found that the facts and circumstances of this tragic shooting show that the officers had an objectively reasonable belief that Mr. Walker was armed and by his conduct presented an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to them and/or their fellow officers," he wrote.

Walker was not armed at the time of the shooting, but a gun was found in his car after the fact. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation's report concurred that Walker had shot the gun out of his window at police during the car chase. Officers on the scene said Walker looked like he was reaching for a gun when they opened fire, according to the BCI report.

The internal investigation also found that an officer had added an extension to his department issued magazine that increased capacity to up to six additional rounds and had two rounds of "training" ammunition in his magazine, Mylett wrote.

"When questioned about these two discoveries, the officer stated that he was told by other members of the police department that it was permissible to add an extension to the magazine in his department issued weapon," he wrote. "That officer fired rounds that evening which did not include the training ammunition. He stated he would not knowingly violate agency policies."

Mylett concluded that there was an absence of clear language regarding this topic in department policy.

"I find that the officer did not intentionally violate any policy or procedure when he added an extension to his department issued magazine," he wrote, adding that the department has since adjusted the policy.

The BCI report ultimately found that the added capacity to the officer's magazine had no bearing on the outcome of the shooting, Mylett wrote.

The internal investigation identified two potential violations of policies pertaining to vehicle pursuits, according to the executive summary. Two patrol cruisers entered the vehicle pursuit of Walker without specific authorization from a supervisor, and two officers didn't activate their body cameras, Mylett wrote.

"Given the totality of the circumstances at the time of the pursuit, to include the significant officer and public safety issues present and the dynamics of the situation, and based on the accounts of the officers involved, I find that no officer intentionally violated agency policies when they entered the vehicle pursuit nor did any officer intentionally fail to activate their body worn cameras," he concluded.

Mylett also found the action of one officer using their cruiser to attempt to close the driver's side door of Walker's car to stop him from exiting to be "reasonable given the situation."

In a press release, the department said there will be no further information or comment at this time, due to pending litigation against the city.

In a statement, the Akron Fraternal Order of Police said it will continue to support the eight officers involved in the shooting and that it agrees with the findings of the internal investigation.

Mayor Dan Horrigan released a statement in support of the findings.

“I support Chief Mylett's administrative assessment in this case, and I thank the Akron Police Department for their painstaking review of the facts and the evidence," he said.

The city declined an interview request.

Walker's family filed suit against the city and the department last June. Family lawyer Bobby DiCello released a statement Tuesday speaking out against the findings.

"While not unexpected, it is exactly this position that makes it critical for us to continue the lawsuit on behalf of Jayland Walker’s family," he said. "In fact, it is exactly because of this position, that we look forward to moving this case further through our justice system.“

In a statement, Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, whose district includes all of Akron, said conversations about policing in Akron are not over.

"Despite the findings of this report, we can all agree there is still significant work that needs to be done to rebuild trust between the Akron Police Department and the people they swore an oath to protect and serve," she said. “This report does not eliminate the need for ongoing conversations about how to move forward together as a community and ensure meaningful actions that will keep everyone in our city safe."

Strong Sykes has continued to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the patterns and practices of the police department.

The shooting sparked calls for police reform. Voters approved a charter amendment to create a Citizens’ Police Oversight Board, which will review police misconduct complaints.

Kemp Boyd, Chair of the CPOB, told Ideastream Public Media the board members are still reviewing Mylett’s summary of the internal investigation and did not have a comment at this time. He said he continues to keep the Walker family in his thoughts.

Updated: November 28, 2023 at 4:50 PM EST
This story has been updated to add additional comments.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.