Civil rights groups and local politicians have reacted with outrage to the release of video of police killing a Black man in Akron, Ohio, who was shot in a hail of gunfire as he ran away after a car chase.
It’s not clear how exactly many shots were fired by the eight officers involved, but Jayland Walker sustained more than 60 wounds as multiple police officers shot at him. An attorney for Walker’s family said officers kept firing even after he was on the ground.
Walker, 25, was killed 27 June but Akron police released video of the shooting on Sunday. The footage of Walker shows several shouting officers with guns drawn approach the slowing car on foot, as it rolls up over a curb and onto a sidewalk.
Am unarmed person wearing a ski mask exits the passenger door and runs toward a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a burst of shots that lasts six or seven seconds.
Walker’s killing – which followed an attempted traffic stop – is the latest in a long line of US police shootings of often unarmed young Black men that have triggered widespread calls to tackle racism in the police. The murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis policeman in 2020 helped fuel a global protest movement condemning racism.
Protesters took to the streets on Sunday night, demanding answers and justice. A march, which was largely peaceful, concluded at Akron’s Justice Center, where teargas was eventually fired by police officers in riot gear.
Akron officials issued on Monday a curfew for the downtown area which will be in effect from 9pm to 6am.
In a statement, Akron’s mayor, Dan Horrigan, said: “We had several peaceful protests in the downtown footprint related to the officer-involved shooting of Jayland Walker. These protests did not escalate to violence and destruction … However, as night fell and others began to join, the protests no longer became peaceful. There was significant property damage done to downtown Akron. Small businesses up and down Main Street have had their windows broken. We cannot and will not tolerate the destruction of property or violence.”
Speaking through their attorney, Walker’s family urged protesters to remain peaceful in any upcoming demonstrations.
NAACP’s president, Derrick Johnson, said in a statement that Walker’s death wasn’t self-defense, but “was murder. Point blank.”
Johnson added: “This Black man was killed – struck more than 60 times by 90 fired bullets – for a possible traffic violation. This doesn’t happen to white people in America. Why do police continuously target us like domestic terrorists? We are just trying to live our lives, and we are tired of being hunted like prey.”
Legal Defense Fund’s president, Janai S Nelson, said: “The tragic killing of Jayland Walker once again underscores just how deeply dysfunctional and discriminatory America’s system of policing continues to be. As we understand them, the facts and video footage in Mr Walker’s death give us significant pause about the legality of the officers’ conduct.”
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who has represented the families of Black victims of violence in numerous recent cases, called the incident horrifying. In a Facebook post he wrote: “NOTHING can justify this police response! The officers who ended this young man’s life need to held accountable IMMEDIATELY!”
Police have said a handgun, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring were found on the seat of the car. A casing consistent with the weapon was later found in the area where officers say they believe a shot had come from Walker’s vehicle.
Local politicians reacted with dismay to the video.
Ohio senator Sherrod Brown said: “The Walker family and the entire Akron community deserve a thorough and transparent investigation of why we are mourning yet another young, Black life cut short. This is every Black parent’s worst fear of what a traffic stop will turn into.”
Meanwhile, Ohio congressman Tim Ryan said: “The video we witnessed today leaves questions unanswered. I fully support a thorough, independent investigation to understand what happened and ensure accountability.”
The Ohio attorney general, Dave Yost, vowed a “complete, fair and expert investigation” and cautioned that “body-worn camera footage is just one view of the whole picture”.
The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report