In Ohio, a Summit County grand jury voted against charging the police officers who shot at unarmed Black delivery worker Jayland Walker over 90 times. Walker was mutilated by 46 gunshot wounds, including five to his back, after being chased by police in his car for two nights in a row, in June of 2022. The grand jury made its decision on Monday, April 17.
Paige White, part of the Walker family’s legal team, called the ruling a “miscarriage of justice.” The case of Walker’s murder was presented to the grand jury by prosecutors, who often present cases in ways that indicate a bias towards police. “I’ve been an attorney for 23 years and I’ve come to realize that power tends to protect power,” said Bobby DiCello, the Walker family attorney. “When power examines itself, it usually creates strange and awful results.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the ruling on Monday. “The grand jury concluded that the officers were legally justified in their use of force,” he stated, based on so-called evidence that Walker fired a gunshot at police from his vehicle during the chase, and that Walker appeared to be reaching for a gun as he ran on foot from police during his final moments.
Yost claims that there is “no doubt” that Walker shot at officers from his car. The “evidence” presented by officials is inconclusive. Video footage released nine months ago only shows a mili-second of a flash of light from Walker’s car, which officers claim was the gunshot. Evidence released on Monday is no more illuminating. Body camera footage shows the same vague flash of light, and in a second body camera video, officers are heard radioing that a shot has been fired, though there is no visual evidence. The police union had “3D modeling” done of the incident, which depicts Walker shooting a gun out of his vehicle. But this does not constitute hard video evidence and may as well be a piece of fiction.
Walker had owned a gun, and this gun was found in his car after the police killed him. A shell casing was also found on the scene, which investigators claim matches Walker’s gun. No video footage of police discovering this evidence has been made available to the public.
Yost also claims that a grainy portion of the body camera footage shows Walker reaching for a gun in a “cross draw motion,” planting his foot towards officers while raising his hand. What Yost refers to occurs after Walker eventually abandons his vehicle and tries to flee police on foot. This vague movement is the claimed justification for eight police officers firing a collective 90 bullets at a man who, in reality, was unarmed, and could have just as easily been putting his hands up in surrender. For most of the gunshots, it is clear that Walker is laying on the ground, almost completely still. After the shooting, police yell at Walker to stop moving. At this point, they are shouting at a dying man.
Immediately after shooting Walker into the ground, police are heard checking in with each other. “You okay?” one asks. Another responds, “Yeah I feel okay.”
Shortly after, police gather around Walker, turning him over to reveal a back riddled with gunshot wounds, then handcuffing him. One officer asks, “Hey, you need a tourniquet?” Another breathlessly responds, appearing shocked at the state of Walker’s wounds, “Sh-t.”
The officers then do something puzzling: one cop asks for “everybody who shot” to follow him. He leads a group of police away from the scene of the crime, and someone tells their fellow officers to “go blue,” as if it is a command, although this is not an official code. When a female officer asks if she should turn her body camera off, asking “off or blue?” a male officer responds, “off.”
It appears that “go blue” is a signal for officers to mute the microphones on their body cameras, as this is what this group of officers does, before regrouping next to the police cars to consult together in a group. It is unknown what these officers discussed. But many speculate that they were trying to get their stories straight about the shooting, to maximize chances of getting away with the murder. A week after Walker’s murder, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett claimed that the officers responsible had been immediately separated from one another after the shooting. This body camera footage directly contradicts those claims.
Police had been trying to pull Jayland Walker over for having a broken taillight. Yost seems to believe that evidence proves that cops were “legally justified in their use of force.” Having a broken taillight, owning a firearm, or even evading police do not carry the death penalty in the United States. Nonetheless, this is what was meted out against Walker on that night.
An anonymous report, released in October, claims to have discovered the identities of the eight officers who murdered Walker, by cross-referencing publicly available information with personnel files of officers involved in Walker’s murder. Releasing the names of the officers responsible has been a consistent demand of the anti-police brutality movement in Akron and across the country. Whoever these officers truly are, the Akron Police Department is keeping their identities close to their chest. Even in body camera footage, all officers’ faces are blurred. Immediately after Walker’s death, the eight officers responsible went on paid vacation, only returning to duty in October.
The grand jury’s decision has already sparked protests, resulting in roadblocks. More demonstrations are expected in the near future.