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Grand Jury Decides Not to Charge Officers in Shooting Death
Grand Jury Decides Not to Charge Officers in Shooting Death of Jayland WalkerMr. Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot dozens of times after an attempted traffic stop and a chase in Akron, Ohio, last year.Credit...Gaelen Morse/ReutersA grand jury in Ohio has decided not to charge eight Akron police officers in the death of Jayland

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Mr. Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot dozens of times after an attempted traffic stop and a chase in Akron, Ohio, last year.

International News A protest against the Akron police shooting death of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio last year.
Credit…Gaelen Morse/Reuters

A grand jury in Ohio has decided not to charge eight Akron police officers in the death of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot dozens of times by the police after an attempted traffic stop and a chase last summer during which he shot at the police, the state’s attorney general said on Monday.

Mr. Walker was killed on June 27, 2022, after the Akron police tried to stop his car. When Mr. Walker did not pull over, video released by the police showed, officers chased him, first in vehicles and then on foot. Officers said that they thought Mr. Walker had fired a weapon from his car and that they feared he would fire again, prompting them to shoot him.

Attorney General Dave Yost of Ohio said on Monday that Mr. Walker had fired at least one shot at the police from his car. But Mr. Walker was unarmed when the police pursued him on foot and fatally shot him.

Eight Akron police officers fired a total of 94 shots at Mr. Walker, and he sustained 46 gunshot wounds, the attorney general’s office said. Mr. Yost said that the police did not know that Mr. Walker had left his gun in his car. It was found in his 2005 Buick Century after the shooting.

Even before the grand jury’s decision, Akron city officials had braced for protests and unrest by covering the windows of the first floor of City Hall with plywood and by fencing off the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the courthouse. The city’s public schools announced that they would close on Tuesday. And city officials urged residents to protest peacefully in a designated “demonstration zone” in front of the county courthouse and the Akron Police Department.

“I would ask that during these times of tension and trauma that you turn toward one another and not on each other,” Mayor Daniel Horrigan said at a news conference on Monday.

The decision not to charge the Akron police officers came at a time of heightened scrutiny of killings by the police since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Such cases have led to murder charges in some cases, but others have led to no charges, particularly in cases in which prosecutors have argued that the victims exhibited violence that endangered officers’ lives.

In Mr. Walker’s case, the fact that he had fired a shot most likely bolstered the argument that the officers were justified in their use of deadly force, said Joanna Schwartz, a professor at the U.C.L.A. School of Law.

“Police officers are very rarely prosecuted, even when they kill people and even when there are significant protests and public coverage and scrutiny of these cases,” she said.

During the police pursuit of Mr. Walker, the officers believed that he was still armed when he ran from his vehicle, Mr. Yost said.


Credit…Gaelen Morse/Reuters

Mr. Walker ignored commands to show his hands and stop and then “reached for his waistband in what several officers described as a cross-draw motion, planted his foot and turned toward the officers while raising his hand,” Mr. Yost said at a news conference. “Only then did the officers fire, believing Mr. Walker was firing again at them.”

Bobby DiCello, a lawyer for Mr. Walker’s family, said the family was supporting a call by U.S. Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, a Democrat who represents Akron, for an investigation by the Justice Department into the patterns and practices of the Akron Police Department. He said the family also planned to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city and the Police Department.

“They are distraught, they are saddened, they are sickened by what’s happened,” Mr. DiCello said in a phone interview on Monday evening. “They are not done with this fight. They feel as though they’ve lost a battle but certainly not the war for justice.”

Demetrius Travis Sr., a cousin of Mr. Walker, said in a text message to The Akron Beacon Journal that “disappointment cannot began to express how I feel about this decision,” even though he had expected it “based off many actions by the city of Akron, to protect their buildings and block off streets.”

“Whatever happens because of this decision is not on the Walker family, it is due to a continuing disregard for the lives of Black and Brown people in the United States of America,” Mr. Travis wrote.

The Akron police chief, Steve Mylett, said at a news conference that the grand jury, after reviewing all the facts, including video footage, had “ultimately determined that our officers did not commit a crime when they encountered Mr. Walker.”

“In no way does that take away from the tragedy of June 27 and the loss of such a young life,” Chief Mylett said. He said that the Police Department would begin an internal investigation to determine whether the officers had violated any department policies. He said that the department would not release the officers’ names because of threats made against them.

Mr. Horrigan said that he was calling for peace, just as he had when the Police Department released footage of the shooting in July. That footage led to protests over several days throughout Akron, a city of about 200,000 people in northeastern Ohio, south of Cleveland. While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, some resulted in property damage and arrests of demonstrators.

Mr. Yost, a Republican, said that his office had “made a point of neutrally presenting all the evidence” to the grand jury, which considered the evidence over more than a week.

He said that a judge overseeing the grand jury had instructed the jurors about the law, rather than have those instructions come from the prosecutor as is customary, “to avoid any question about the accuracy of the legal instructions.”

Only seven of the nine jurors needed to agree that there was probable cause to move forward with charges. Mr. Yost said he was legally prohibited from disclosing the grand jury vote.

Speaking on Monday at a news conference at an Akron church with clergy members and civil rights leaders, Ms. Sykes said she would formally request a Justice Department investigation of the Police Department. Pamela Walker, Mr. Walker’s mother, had attended the State of the Union address in February, at the invitation of Ms. Sykes.

“We’ve seen it too many times,” Ms. Sykes said in a statement. “A routine traffic stop ends in death, and a family and community mourn the loss of a son. A brother. A friend. A neighbor. As this country and community reckons with another tragic death, we find ourselves yearning for a justice system that protects us all.”

April Rubin contributed reporting.