Jayland Walker’s sister and an attorney alleged that the photo Akron, Ohio, police released showing a gun recovered from the car of a Black man shot and killed by officers during a traffic stop was staged.
This comes after the Akron Police Department released a video Monday of the deadly June 27 shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker in a pursuit that started with an attempted traffic stop. It’s not clear how many shots were fired by the eight officers involved, but Walker reportedly sustained more than 60 wounds.
The department also released a photo of a handgun, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring that police say were found on the seat of the car. A casing consistent with the weapon was later found in the area where officers believed a shot had come from the vehicle, police said.
“I’ve never known him to own a gun of any sort at all. He never brought it to my attention. The last thing I would imagine him having with him was a gun,” Walker’s sister, Jada Walker, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I haven’t been watching a lot of publications and things because I don’t want to see him in that light. I’m just really sad because out of many Black men and many families who have experienced this, even as a sister, you know it’s just … excuse me … it’s just really hard.”
“I don’t see clear evidence of a gun being fired, more importantly, the gun was recovered in the back seat according to the preliminary autopsy report that my team reviewed,” the attorney representing the Walkers, Bobby DiCello, said. “I need to know how the gun got into the front seat all nice presented with the ring, and you know, the cartridge pulled out and the bullets there. This looked like a staged picture.”
At a press conference, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said officers attempted to stop Walker’s car around 12:30 a.m. for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but less than a minute into a pursuit, the sound of a shot was heard from the car, and a transportation department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle flash coming from the vehicle.
That changed the nature of the case from “a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue,” he said.
Police body camera videos show what unfolded after the roughly six-minute pursuit. Several shouting officers with guns drawn approach the slowing car on foot, as it rolls up over a curb and onto a sidewalk. A person wearing a ski mask exits the passenger door and runs toward a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a burst of shots that lasts 6 or 7 seconds.
At least one officer had tried first to use a stun gun, but that was unsuccessful, police said.
Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to distinguish on the video in real-time, but a still photo seems to show him “going down to his waist area” and another appears to show him turning toward an officer. He said a third picture “captures a forward motion of his arm.”
Jada Walker told ABC that she has yet to see the video of her brother’s shooting, saying the allegations brought by police are “just not matching the person I know because he’s just not into that and that’s not him.” Walker’s family said officers kept firing even after he was on the ground.
“I can’t accept that at all. I shouldn’t say I don’t want to, but I just can’t fathom to see any sort of video of him being gunned down… just like aim practice,” Jada Walker said.
“We have still yet to get a solid answer on how, like you said, a person who doesn’t have any record, at the most would have a speeding ticket from using his car to get around,” she added. “For me to have to experience that, see my family mourn, even my mom, it really hurts.”
The shooting prompted protests Sunday, and later that night, police in full riot gear fired a dozen tear gas canisters to disperse a handful of protesters outside the justice center, WKYC-TV reported.
In a statement shared Sunday with reporters, the local police union said the officers thought there was an immediate threat of serious harm, and that it believes their actions and the number of shots will be found justified in line with their training and protocols. The union said the officers are cooperating with the investigation.
Police said more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body, but further investigation is needed to determine exactly how many rounds the officers fired and how many times Walker was hit.
The footage ends with the officers’ gunfire and doesn’t show what happened next. Officers provided aid, and one can be heard saying Walker still had a pulse, but he was later pronounced dead, Mylett said.
The chief said an officer firing at someone has to be “ready to explain why they did what they did, they need to be able to articulate what specific threats they were facing … and they need to be held to account.” But he said he is withholding judgment on their actions until they give their statements.
State Attorney General Dave Yost vowed a “complete, fair and expert investigation” by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and cautioned that “body-worn camera footage is just one view of the whole picture.”
Akron police are conducting a separate internal investigation about whether the officers violated department rules or policies.
The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases. Seven of them are white, and one is Black, according to the department. Their length of service with Akron police ranges from one-and-a-half to six years, and none of them has a record of discipline, substantiated complaints or fatal shootings, it said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.