By JOHN SEEWER
A grand jury in Ohio will hear evidence this week to decide whether police officers should face criminal charges in the shooting of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man whose death sparked protests in Akron last summer.
Eight officers fired dozens of rounds at Walker following a car and foot chase. Police said it began when they tried to pull him over for minor equipment violations and he failed to stop, then fired a shot from his car 40 seconds into the pursuit.
Police body camera video showed Walker eventually bailed from his slowly moving car while wearing a ski mask and ran into a parking lot, where pursuing officers opened fire. A county medical examiner said Walker was shot at least 40 times. A handgun, loaded magazine and wedding ring were found on the driver’s seat of the car.
Walker’s family called it a brutal and senseless shooting of a man who was unarmed at the time and whose fiancee recently died. Police union officials said the officers thought there was an immediate threat of serious harm and that their actions were in line with their training and protocols.
Authorities say Walker made a threatening gesture before he was shot, but the body camera footage from June 27 did not clearly show that. Police chased Walker for about 10 seconds before officers fired from multiple directions in a burst of shots that lasted 6 or 7 seconds.
After taking over the investigation last summer at the request of Akron police, prosecutors with the Ohio attorney general’s office will present the case to the grand jury this week.
City leaders have been meeting with community leaders, church groups, activists and business owners ahead of the grand jury meeting while also preparing for potential protests.
The city is considering setting up a designated protest zone downtown outside the city hall building, where workers already have put plywood over the first-floor windows. There’s also temporary fencing around the county courthouse.
“We’re not anticipating violence, but we’re preparing for anything,” said Stephanie Marsh, a city spokesperson. “We don’t know how folks are going to feel and how they’re going to react.”
Walker’s death received widespread attention from activists, including from the family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The NAACP and an attorney for Walker’s family called for the Justice Department to open a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting. The department responded by saying it was monitoring the case.
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