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Akron's police oversight board to review internal investigation into Walker shooting

Protesters calling for justice for Jayland Walker march down West Market Street in Akron on Friday, April 14, 2023.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Protesters calling for justice for Jayland Walker march down West Market Street in Akron on Friday, April 14, 2023.

The investigation into the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker will get another look — this time, from Akron’s civilian police oversight board.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday during its regular meeting to review the findings of the police department’s investigation into whether officers followed department policies and procedures during the events that led to Walker’s death.

Eight officers shot Walker 46 times after a car and foot chase in June 2022. While Walker fired a shot during the car chase, he was unarmed when he was killed, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Walker’s death renewed calls for a police review board in the city and led to the formation of the board earlier this year.

Police Chief Steve Mylett found the officers did not violate any of APD’s policies, according to a statement released Tuesday.

Now, the review board said it will offer its own findings.

“The Akron Citizens’ Police Oversight Board and the Office of Independent Police Auditor will promptly begin a rigorous review of the findings and decision of Chief Stephen L. Mylett as to the death of Jayland Walker,” board members said in a written statement released Wednesday. “The Board will report the results of the review and make any recommendations that are warranted.”

The CPOB’s review of the investigation will have three areas of focus: whether APD’s policies in general should be revised, if the use-of-force policy should be changed and if there was appropriate command and control exercised during the Walker shooting and chase, according to the statement, which board member Bob Gippin read aloud during the meeting.

Board member Tristan Reed said she agreed with the draft but wanted to point out that the Office of the Independent Police Auditor is not staffed yet.

“It’s prudent that we take a stance, and we move forward with our ideas. I don’t know what that looks like as it concerns current capacity,” Reed said. “We do not currently have all of the pieces and parts to be able to best execute our objectives right now.”

The board is currently accepting applications for the auditor position and plans to eventually hire a deputy auditor.

Mylett’s report released Tuesday found the officers were “objectively reasonable” in using deadly force against Walker and that “his conduct presented an imminent risk of bodily injury toward officers" based on the evidence presented to the grand jury and its subsequent decision not to indict them.

In the CPOB’s statement, board members said they disagree with Mylett that “relevant inferences” can be drawn about the shooting based on a special grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers in April.

“The Board does not agree with the Chief that any relevant inferences can be drawn from the failure of the required supermajority of the Grand Jury to bring indictments. A majority of the Grand Jury may have voted to bring one or more indictments,” board members said in the statement.

Mylett also found several department policy violations in the investigation, but he believes they were unintentional, he said.

For example, an officer added an extension to his gun magazine to fire more rounds — but did not realize he wasn’t permitted to do so, according to the report.

The officer was verbally counseled and the department’s policy has been modified to be clearer, he added.

Additionally, several officers began the police chase before getting orders from the on-duty supervisor and two officers didn’t immediately turn on their body cameras. These violations were also unintentional, Mylett said in the report.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.