Protest actions have been ongoing since Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man and delivery driver, was murdered by Akron, Ohio police around midnight on June 27. Police claim they were attempting to stop Walker for a traffic violation as he was driving. According to police, Walker did not pull over, leading police to chase him. Police claim Jayland shot at police while they chased him, then allegedly jumped out of his car as it was moving, before running away on foot. Jayland had no criminal record, save a speeding ticket. Walker’s aunt said at a press conference, “Jayland was a sweet, young man. He never caused any trouble. We don’t know what happened and we’d like to know.”
Eight Akron police officers fired over 90 shots at the young delivery driver. He suffered over 60 wounds, according to his autopsy. Sources say that police kept shooting at Jayland even when he was laying on the pavement, and handcuffed him after the shooting. Jayland was already dead, lying handcuffed, on his back, and on the street when medical help arrived. Seven out of the eight officers responsible are white.
“We’re not leaving until justice is served, and we get answers and all these racist cops are out,” said Destinee Jackson of Canton, Ohio at a June 30 protest in front of the Akron police department headquarters.
“Our prayers are with Jayland Walker’s loved ones, and we offer our sincere condolences to all those who knew him,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and police chief Steve Mylett in a joint statement. “Our thoughts are also with our Akron police officers and their families.” The eight police officers responsible have been placed on paid leave.
Jayland is the third person to be killed by Akron police this year, after police shot two men on February 22. According to the data project Mapping Police Violence, 291 people have been killed by US police in 2022, last updated on April 9.
Activists from groups such as Serve the People Akron and local residents have been protesting since June 30, in front of the Akron police headquarters and the Akron courthouse. They blocked the streets around the police headquarters until the police closed all roads surrounding the building.
Demonstrators accuse the police department of racism. These claims are corroborated by the troubling record of the current police chief, Stephen Mylett. Earlier in his career Mylett sued his own police chief for “anti-white” racism. When he was police chief of Bellevue, a Black police officer unsuccessfully sued him for racism, claiming that Mylett told him he did not fit “culturally” with the police department.
The Freedom BLOC, a grassroots Black-led organization in Ohio, has made several demands to the city of Akron, including firing all eight police officers responsible, ending the protocol of police chases, and ending the use of armed police officers for traffic stops.