The attorney representing the family of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man who was killed last month by police in Akron, Ohio, in a barrage of bullets after an attempted traffic stop, believes that city officials are doing more to protect the police officers than members of their own community.
“If [city leaders] were focused on protecting Jayland, they wouldn’t have to protect anyone right now,” attorney Bobby DiCello told Yahoo News. “Because nothing was found in his system, it underscored the senselessness [of his killing]. He panicked and paid for it with his life.”
At a news conference announcing the autopsy’s findings, Dr. Lisa Kohler, the Summit County medical examiner, said her office was unable to determine how many bullets were fired at Walker or which bullet may have ultimately killed him, but she concluded that he “had several very devastating injuries that would cause death.”
The release of Walker’s autopsy report, DiCello said, “doesn’t change anything” about the case except to show where city officials stand. At the very least, he said, Walker’s family deserves a public apology.
“They could have released the autopsy and an apology, but they didn’t,” DiCello said. “The reason why is because they are afraid of the courtroom process.”
“The subject needs to be: ‘Where is the public apology?’” he added, calling out Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan and Police Chief Stephen Mylett, who, he said, have apologized to the family behind closed doors but have not done so publicly.
“Enough of the quiet nice words,” DiCello said. “We are not interested in secret concern. We are interested in a public apology for taking a life that was not necessary. … At the end of the day, there shouldn’t have been a single bullet fired.”
Neither Horrigan nor Mylett immediately returned Yahoo News’ request for comment.
Walker was killed in the early morning hours of June 27 after law enforcement said they had attempted to pull him over for an unspecified traffic and equipment violation. He allegedly refused to stop, leading police on a nearly 20-minute car chase followed by a brief foot pursuit before his body was riddled with dozens of bullets.
Police say Walker fired one shot at them while in the car, though family members are skeptical of this assertion. Officers also say that during the foot chase, they believed he was reaching toward his waist for a gun, which precipitated their gunfire.
About 100 bullets were discharged from at least eight of the 13 responding officers’ guns, according to officials. Walker was unarmed at the time he was killed, though Mylett says a gun was recovered from his car after the shooting.
The eight officers who discharged their weapons have been placed on administrative leave in accordance with Police Department policy.
The fact that five officers showed varying levels of restraint in the pursuit of Walker that day, DiCello said, proves killing him was unnecessary.
Given the intense emotions displayed since the killing, with weeks of protests in and around Akron, DiCello added, an apology isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s necessary.
“[Walker] was shot at over 90 times while running away from officers,” he said. “We have been urging the leadership of the community to take accountability, and that would do a lot to ease the tension. All people are doing right now is aching. They're hurting and they're scared. The city has to know that blaming Jayland is the worst approach.”
Cover thumbnail photo: Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images