Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump calls for justice, saying 'Jason Walker matters'

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In a press conference that often resembled a worship service, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump called for justice and truth in the case of Jason Walker, who was killed Saturday by an off-duty sheriff's deputy.

Walker's family was with Crump at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville on Thursday. He grew up in the church.

Walker was killed Saturday near his home on Bingham Drive. He was shot by an off-duty sheriff's lieutenant who was identified by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office on Monday as Lt. Jeffrey Hash.

Watch: Ben Crump, Jason Walker's family hold rally in Fayetteville church

'I can't talk about it'

More than 100 people filled the pews of the church to listen to Crump speak and support Walker's family. While there were teary eyes, the atmosphere was thick with the determination to seek justice for Walker.

Several members of Walker’s family spoke to the crowd. Attendees stood in silence as Walker's parents took to the podium.

His mother, Janice Walker, thanked everyone for their prayers. His father, Anthony Walker, could hardly speak.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I can’t talk about it.”

Crump said Walker's family never thought their son would be shot and killed just feet from their home by a law enforcement officer.

More: Myron B. Pitts: Distrust fuels dueling narratives between Fayetteville law enforcement, protesters

Walker’s brothers said Walker had a loving heart and helped people. He loved gardening, fishing and landscaping, they said.

"Jason was a goodhearted person," said Marlowe Walker, Jason's brother. The last time the two spoke was the Friday before he was killed. "He showed you he loved you by giving, by doing. That's how he was."

Walker, 37, was a single father to a 14-year-old boy named Christian. In their remarks, and in Crump's speech, they spoke about how close Walker was with his son.

"They were always together," Marlowe said. "You never saw one without the other. Jason had a loving heart."

Jason Walker's brother speaks at a rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
Jason Walker's brother speaks at a rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Comfort for the heartbroken

Crump started his speech by saying he was looking at Walker’s brothers, mother, father, aunt and uncle seated at the front of the church.

“They seem so heartbroken and lonely,” he said.

Crump asked those attending to stand and let the family know they are not alone. He led the crowd to chant, “Jason Walker matters.”

Having represented the families of other victims killed by law enforcement officers, including Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin, Crump was joined by the brother and nephew of George Floyd.

“They know that a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere,” Crump said.

Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes in 2020. His death sparked a summer of protests and justice for other unarmed Black Americans who died at the hands of law enforcement.

Philonise Floyd offered comfort to Walker's family and reassured them that speaking about Walker's life was important to the world. He said he would be fighting for justice for Walker the same way others fought for his brother, George.

"We will never be able to get justice for Mr. Walker, but we will get accountability," Floyd said.

Many of Walker's friends and family were also in attendance. Some shouted "It's not right!" and "Injustice!" while Crump spoke about the murky details of Walker's death.

In his speech, Crump also called attention to prominent leaders and told them that “but for the grace of God” the press conference could be about their son, brother or father.

Attorney Ben Crump speaks during a rally for Jason Walker at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
Attorney Ben Crump speaks during a rally for Jason Walker at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

The right thing to do

Crump said he was born and raised in Lumberton, which is about 45 miles south of Fayetteville. He said he is near his home.

“It is not lost on me that when Jason Walker was shot multiple times, he was close to home,” he said.

Crump said knowing that Walker was close to home is painful for Walker’s family.

More: Protest over Jason Walker's death in Fayetteville

“You think when you’re at home, you’re safe, you’re secure,” he said.

Crump also noted that the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. is this weekend. King said that instead of asking what is popular, ask what is right.

“It is the right thing to do to speak up for the truth of what happened to Jason Walker,” Crump said.

Seeking the truth seemed to be the overarching theme of Crump's speech as he recalled the details of Walker's death as told by Fayetteville Police. Many of Walker's family and supporters don't believe that Walker "jumped" onto Hash's truck in an attempt to break his windshield, which was initially reported by the police.

Crump called the details "illogical" and demanded law enforcement release more details about Walker's death and the events that led up to it.

People fill the doorway to listen to attorney Ben Crump and the family of Jason Walker speak during a rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
People fill the doorway to listen to attorney Ben Crump and the family of Jason Walker speak during a rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Keeping the pressure on

On Sunday, Fayetteville's Police Chief Gina Hawkins and Billy West, the district attorney for Cumberland County, announced that their offices would not be handling the investigation of Walker's death. Instead, the State Bureau of Investigation will be taking the lead.

More: Fayetteville police, DA say outside agencies to investigate shooting death of Fayetteville man

When asked by reporters at the press conference, Crump said Walker’s family has not been contacted by the SBI.

When Crump was asked about a report that Hash plans to say the shooting was in self defense, he referenced the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, GA.

“They said the same thing about Ahmaud Arbery,” he said.

Crump mentioned the life and death of Arbery throughout the night saying that his case reminded him of Walker's. Both men were shot and killed and after officers arrived at the scene, they did not immediately pay attention to the victim and instead, tended to the shooters.

Arbery’s killers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 7.

Crump said he wants to keep the pressure on authorities investigating Walker's case. He said the case has to be fought first in the court of public opinion.

“If we win there, then maybe we can fight in the court of law,” he said.

A family member comforts Jason Walker's father, Anthony Walker, during a rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
A family member comforts Jason Walker's father, Anthony Walker, during a rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Two systems of justice

Crump said that it’s time to end what he called the two justice systems in the United States. He mentioned several high-profile cases where Black people were killed by white people and asked what would have happened if the roles were reversed.

Crump called for the release of information from the autopsy report. He said the community wants accountability and justice.

“We want equal justice for Jason Walker,” he said.

Crump also called attention to Hash’s law enforcement training. Hash should have trained him to protect the public, Crump said.

Crump asked why Hash used deadly force rather than de-escalating the situation.

“These are the questions that need to be answered,” he said.

A man gets emotional during a rally for Jason Walker at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
A man gets emotional during a rally for Jason Walker at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

A higher authority involved

The press conference started with a prayer asking for wisdom, love, strength and peace. “Amen,” could be heard over and over during the prayer, which was followed by clapping.

Crump, who sounded more like a preacher than a lawyer at times, said there is a higher authority who is involved in cases like Walker's.

“He’s God almighty,” Crump said. “He sits high and looks low.”

Crump called for God to help lead to the truth of what happened.

A Bible reading from Psalm 27 followed the first prayer. “Trust in the Lord and do good,” the psalm said in part. The passage also called for resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for him.

“Depart from evil and do good. … The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell therein forever,” the Psalm said.

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin, City Councilman Chris Davis and Cumberland County Commissioner Charles Evans were also in attendance at the press conference.

At the end of the press conference, Davis, who is a pastor in Fayetteville, closed the night out in another prayer asking for peace, justice and comfort for the Walker family.

"Strengthen our feet so that we might not be weary, strengthen our hands so they may be strong, strengthen our minds so that we might be focused on the task at hand and that task is justice, that task is truth," Davis said.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Family of Jason Walker, Ben Crump hold rally at Fayetteville NC church

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