What we know — and still don't know — about the police shooting death of Jayland Walker

·17 min read

Everyone has questions about the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker: the family and their attorneys, state investigators and the city's police chief, the Akron community and its mayor.

Jayland Walker with his mother, Pamela, right, and sister, Jada.
Jayland Walker with his mother, Pamela, right, and sister, Jada.

"I understand the public's demand for information now. I have questions that I want answered now. However, I echo the Walker family's request for patience," Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said at a city press conference Sunday.

"I know many of you will have questions after this press conference," Mayor Dan Horrigan said. "But I have a number of questions myself that need to be answered."

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The following are some of those questions, which have been answered fully, partially or not at all.

What was the reason for the traffic stop in Akron?

At about 12:30 a.m. June 27, the officer in Car 24 tells dispatch that he's got a "39" at Tallmadge Avenue and Thayer Street in Akron's North Hill neighborhood. The 39, which is police code for traffic stop, quickly becomes a "signal 5" emergency traffic situation as Walker drives away and Car 24 begins the pursuit.

Seven seconds of shooting: What 13 police bodycam videos show in Jayland Walker's death

In press releases and statements, Akron police have indicated that Walker was stopped for an equipment violation, which could be anything from a burned-out light on the license plate to a cracked taillight, and a traffic violation, which could be anything from failure to signal a turn or speeding.

“I’m not sure what the equipment violation was or what the traffic violation was,” Mylett said Sunday, adding that the state investigation will determine the reason for the stop.

What happened in New Franklin the night before the chase and fatal shooting by Akron police?

A 2005 Buick that matches the description of Walker's vehicle fled a traffic stop the night before in New Franklin, which lasted less than two minutes and never exceeded 50 mph. New Franklin police ended the chase at the Coventry Township line.

New Franklin police Detective Michael Hitchings said the pursuit through his community at 2:29 a.m. on June 26 lasted only minutes and stopped shortly after the vehicle left the jurisdiction.

Typically, he said, in instances like this there would be a follow-up investigation to determine — if possible — who was behind the wheel of the gray Buick that was traveling northbound on state Route 93 and failed to stop for officers so charges could later be filed.

This still image from a police bodycam shows Jayland Walker wearing a ski mask and running out of his car.
This still image from a police bodycam shows Jayland Walker wearing a ski mask and running out of his car.
In this still image from bodycam footage, police circled what they believe to be a flash of light from a discharged gun on the car Jayland Walker was driving.
In this still image from bodycam footage, police circled what they believe to be a flash of light from a discharged gun on the car Jayland Walker was driving.
A police officer points a gun at Jayland Walker in a bodycam image shown during a news conference Sunday in Akron.
A police officer points a gun at Jayland Walker in a bodycam image shown during a news conference Sunday in Akron.

He pointed out that in this instance, a pursuing officer thought the driver was white and wearing a black hoodie. But it can be difficult to determine who was driving at the time, Hitchings said.

New Franklin police are confident of one thing: The vehicle they chased, which reached a top speed of 48 mph, is the same one Akron officers encountered the next night, right down to burned-out taillight, missing license plate light and the license plate number.

"We don't know if (Jayland) was driving," Hitchings said. "All we know is the license plate and the vehicle description match."

New Franklin abandoned the chase as the vehicle heading north on Manchester Road passed the Portage Lakes Branch Library and into Coventry Township.

How many shots were fired by Akron police?

"We do not know the exact number of rounds that were fired," Mylett said Sunday, addressing media reports citing more than 60 gunshot wounds in a preliminary autopsy report and speculation that as many as 95 rounds were fired within seven seconds.

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"Again, this is something that BCI (Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation) will uncover in their examination of evidence," Mylett said. "However, based on the video, I anticipate that number to be high. A lot of rounds were fired. And I will not be surprised if the number at the end of the investigation is consistent with the number that has been circulating in the media.

"But right now, we just don't know," Mylett said.

How many officers were involved in the pursuit and shooting of Jayland Walker?

Multiple officers joined the pursuit that began in Akron's North Hill neighborhood. When it ended on Wilbeth Avenue a block east of Main Street, officers surrounded Walker's vehicle as others arrived.

Two officers jumped out of their vehicles with Tasers ready. Two more carried long rifles. The rest unholstered their handguns and chased Walker on foot into a parking lot on the Bridgestone Americas campus.

Seven seconds of shooting: What 13 police bodycam videos show in Jayland Walker's death

Officers formed a half-circle around Walker as he ran away while shifting directions and spinning around. Partial body-camera footage from 13 officers present, including the eight who fired, has been released.

Did Akron follow vehicle chase protocol?

The officer in Car 24 told dispatch he was attempting to stop Walker for a traffic and equipment violation.

Under the Akron Police Department’s Vehicle Pursuit Procedure, which was established Jan. 31, 2020, initiating a chase “must be based on the pursuing officer’s reasonable belief that the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the pursuit is less than the immediate or potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large.”

Police have not specified the nature of either the alleged traffic violation and equipment failure. In a police transcript of the dispatch calls, at 12:31.04, an officer tells dispatch Walker’s car isn’t stopping. Another car asks if this is a chase and the initial officer said it is.

At 12:31.49, an officer reports “shots fired” and says “that vehicle just had a shot come out of its door.” Mylett on Sunday said that’s the moment when the nature of the chase changed.

From there on out, the chase appears to be textbook based on the policy. Soon, other police officers either joined the pursuit or tried to block off intersections. Throughout the chase, officers continuously told dispatch the speeds they were traveling and how light traffic was on the roads.

What was happening during the last month of Jayland Walker’s life?

Walker’s world was upended May 28 when Jaymeisha Beasley, his fiancee, was killed on Interstate 71 north of Cincinnati while traveling with her family.

"We know he was very saddened by that," said Bobby DiCello, the family's lead attorney.

Walker’s family said they noticed nothing unusual about Walker in the days leading up to his death. DiCello said Walker was helping his grandmother put chairs on her porch the day before he died.

"He wasn't exhibiting any kind of behavior that scared the family," DiCello said. "He wasn't talking about things that were bizarre. He wasn't writing out journals or making veiled threats of any kind."

Walker was working for DoorDash during this time in his life, his family's lawyer said, but it is not clear whether he was delivering food June 26 or June 27.

Who killed Jayland Walker's fiancée, Jaymeisha Beasley?

Less than a month separates the tragic deaths of Walker and his fiancee.

Beasley, her sister Jasmine and her mother, Shalesa, were traveling southbound on Interstate 71, heading toward Cincinnati at 1:19 a.m. May 28. Shalesa's boyfriend, Andrae Keyes, was driving the slow-moving van, according to Cmdr. Matt Schmenk with the Ohio State Highway Patrol post in Lebanon.

A semitractor struck them from behind, sending the van into a guardrail and ejecting Beasley, who was not wearing a seat belt, onto the highway. Beasley laid there “for a few minutes,” Schmenk said.

As other drivers pulled over to help, a southbound vehicle struck Beasley and drove away. Beasley, who was 27 and worked at a Walmart pharmacy, died at the scene. The vehicle that hit Beasley has not been identified. Jasmine told the Beacon Journal that she thought the vehicle that ran over her sister was another semi.

Investigators tried without success to identify vehicles traveling in the area using traffic cameras that scan license plates. Schmenk said he’s seeking a subpoena for the release of cellphone records that could identify people in the area at the time of the fatal accident.

“We’re still investigating that. We haven’t had anyone come forward. But we do have warrants for cellphones of people who were in the area,” Schmenk said. “Once we get that back, hopefully we can figure out who hit her.”

Where was Jayland Walker headed that night?

Public records show Walker only had two addresses as an adult, both in Akron about 4½ miles apart. Most recently, he lived in Kenmore, according to public records.. Before that, he lived in West Akron.

The Akron police chase started on the other side of town in North Hill. It’s unclear what he was doing there, though he was working for DoorDash during this time in his life.

When Akron police tried to stop Walker, he drove south onto state Route 8 and into Firestone Park, a route that could have taken him home to Kenmore.

Walker ended up running from police and being shot in a parking lot off of East Wilbeth Road, on the Bridgestone Americas campus. At that point, he was about 3 miles from his Kenmore home.

Whose ring was found in Jayland Walker's car?

Police on Sunday for the first time revealed a picture of what they said they found in Walker’s car after the shooting.

It shows a handgun, a bullet magazine and a gold ring on the front, driver’s side seat of Walker’s car.

Mylett said it appeared to be wedding ring. It is not clear if this was a ring Walker wore or if it had some sentimental value to him. It’s also not clear whether the ring may have fallen off or been left intentionally behind.

"I also don't know if he had the ring on his finger," DiCello said. "I don't know where that ring came from. I don't know whose ring that is right now."

A still image by the Akron Police Department shows the gun they say was in the car of Jayland Walker, along with what appears to be a wedding band.
A still image by the Akron Police Department shows the gun they say was in the car of Jayland Walker, along with what appears to be a wedding band.

Where was the gun?

DiCello said a preliminary autopsy report places the gun allegedly recovered by police in the back seat of Walker's car following his death. Walker, 25, was unarmed when shot 60 or more times by police.

Police Chief Mylett shared a photograph Sunday of the handgun resting in the front seat.

UPDATE: DiCello released a statement July 7 stating, "Effective immediately, no prior statements to the media made by the Walker legal team with respect to the location of the gun should be used to infer or suggest that the initial report of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office conflicts with the ongoing BCI investigation, or prior statements of the Chief of Police or the City of Akron. The final report of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office will speak for itself."

Were Tasers used?

"Officers attempted to safely take the suspect into custody by deploying their Tasers," a female narrator says in an edited video released Sunday by the city. The annotated video uses still frames to breakdown the sequence of events leading up to and including the use of deadly force.

A Beacon Journal review of the 13 body-worn camera videos released later on Sunday shows two officers with Tasers. One holsters his firearm and draws his Taser. The other appears to be holding his Taser and handgun at the same time.

Each appears to fire his Taser at least four seconds before shots are fired as multiple officers yell: "Show me your (expletive) hands."

What does the autopsy report say?

The Beacon Journal requested and was granted access to a preliminary autopsy worksheet last week. A copy was not provided and notes were not allowed to be taken while reviewing the document, per state law.

The document included thumbnail pictures of wounds and brief accounts of the carnage.

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A full autopsy report is expected soon. That report would detail the number of wounds Walker sustained, as well as the direction that bullets traveled. The Beacon Journal is reiterating its request to review the full autopsy report when it is ready.

What happened immediately after Akron police shot Jayland Walker?

City law on the "Disclosure of Use-of-Force Recordings" requires footage to be released from at least three body-worn cameras no less than seven days after an officer uses deadly force.

In that aspect, the city is right in its statement that the law department has gone "above and beyond" what's required by a charter amendment approved by 89% of voters in 2020.

The mayor and police chief, at their discretion, may release all the footage.

As of Sunday, 13 videos have been released. Each is about a minute in length, which is the minimum required to be released. And each ends abruptly after officers fire shots, which is also the minimum required by the city law.

Without the full video, it's unclear what happened afterward, including how a mortally wounded man was handcuffed and flipped onto his back, according to DiCello.

It's also unclear how officers rendered first aid, detected a pulse and tried to load Walker into a cruiser to get him to the hospital before the ambulance arrived, as the police chief has stated.

"The city did something good. It has this video disclosure statute," said DiCello. "It doesn't give us everything. But it gives us something to work with.

What do the Akron police report and witness statements say?

Critical details about witness interviews and evidence collected at the scene are kept in an incident report that includes a police narrative.

That report, and the notes in it, have not yet been released by the Akron Police Department, which has been told by city officials to funnel all requests involving the Walker shooting through the Law Department at City Hall.

The Beacon Journal requested the report, 911 calls, personnel files for the officers involved, investigatory notes and more the day after the shooting. The Beacon Journal reiterated Sunday its outstanding records request.

An Ohio Supreme Court judgment in June found that narratives from investigating officers, observations of the crime scene and witness statements are public records not protected by exemptions cities often cite in denying the release of records tied to ongoing investigations.

What are the officers involved in the shooting saying about the case?

Mylett said he won't "pre-judge" officers until the external investigation is over, presented to the Ohio attorney general and handed to a grand jury that will decide if charges are warranted.

Until then, he's waiting for the officers to make sworn statements, saying they haven't had the opportunity to do so yet.

"They've got to be ready to explain why they did what they did," Mylett said Sunday. "They need to be able to articulate what specific threats they were facing. And that goes for every round that goes down the barrel of their gun. And they need to be held to account.

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"I am reserving any sort of judgment until we hear from them," Mylett said.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7, the union that represents Akron officers, said the eight officers are cooperating with BCI. But they have yet to give a statement.

As suspects in the homicide caused by their deadly force, the officers can decline to comment by invoking their Fifth Amendment rights.

Ken Abbarno, co-counsel for the Walker family, criticized investigators for not taking immediate statements from the officers. Now, each officer can see the footage posted on YouTube by the Akron Police Department before talking to state investigators.

In previous investigations by BCI, which the Beacon Journal has reviewed, officers involved in shootings are not interviewed for three or more weeks after the incident.

“The freshest time for people to remember the most critical details about what happened is at the actual time that it happened,” Abbarno said. “Witness statements are best taken just then. Witness statements are not best taken perhaps after someone has the opportunity, if in fact this happens, to watch the video frame by frame in slow motion and then remember the events afterwards.”

Was the force excessive?

Mylett said Sunday that the Akron Police Academy's instruction on use of deadly force and firearms training meet or exceed the state minimum.

But when asked if the level of force used to neutralize Walker was excessive, the chief deferred to the outcome of the BCI investigation, saying he "really can't answer fully that question."

"It was absolutely excessive," DiCello told reporters Sunday. "The law requires to use force that is reasonable. Eight officers and whatever the final number will be. We've heard numbers as high as 95 shells on the ground. You'll see if you review this video over and over again, an officer drains his clip and then reloads.

"This is absolutely unreasonable," said DiCello, who described Walker's body "twitching and moving with every shot that landed as it was on the ground. The shots continued after he was on the ground."

Law officer training on the use of deadly force, as well as administrative and criminal investigations into officer-involved shootings, typically rely on two U.S. Supreme Court cases: the 1985 Tennessee v. Garner case and the 1989 Graham v. Connor case. Together, the rulings require officers to act in an "objectively reasonable manner to defend" themselves, fellow officers and the public when presented with a threat that, in that moment and not in hindsight, "a reasonable person would consider likely to cause death or serious bodily harm."

Officers have been exonerated for shooting and killing not only to neutralize threats but to prevent people who commit felonies from escaping.

Why did Jayland Walker apparently fire a shot?

It is entirely unclear.

Did Walker think police might back off if they heard gunfire? Was he clearing the chamber of his gun after removing the magazine? Police said they later found a magazine separated from a handgun in Walker’s car. Was it an accidental discharge?

There are myriad possibilities, and we may never know an answer.

But Walker appears to have been within his rights to have the gun in his car under a recent change in Ohio law, though discharging a firearm in public is still unlawful.

Beginning June 13, Ohioans 21 and older can legally carry a concealed handgun without a permit, including inside a vehicle.

"We know the car is intact and has no bullet holes," DiCello said Sunday. "And so we're interested to find out how this gunshot could have possibly been directed at an officer as you're driving a vehicle — if there was a gunshot, and we don't know that either.

"We're very concerned about those allegations," the family's attorney said.

Who are the Akron police officers who shot Jayland Walker?

We don’t know their names, and it’s likely the public won’t find out anytime soon based on the city’s handling of other fatal police shootings.

On Sunday, the city released a nameless list of the eight officers who fired their weapons at Walker. Seven were men, seven were white and none was involved in any previous substantiated complaint or fatal shooting.

The most senior officer had six years of service, followed by one with four years, the list showed. Five of the others had 2.5 years of service, and the only woman involved was the newest member of the force there, with 1.5 years of service.

No other information was provided by the city.

The Akron Beacon Journal for months pushed the city to release the names of four other officers involved in two other unrelated fatal shootings since Dec. 23.

After the newspaper brought in legal counsel, the city did provide the personnel files of the officers involved in those shootings, but it redacted the officers’ names, claiming the release could threaten the officers’ safety.

Reach reporter Doug Livingston at dlivignston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792 or reporter Amanda Garrett at agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron police shooting of Jayland Walker: What we know