U.S. police kill black American with “60 bullets”

July 4, 2022 - 18:3

U.S. officials are bracing for fresh anti-racism protests after the release of graphic police body-camera footage in which at least “60 bullets” are said to have been used by eight officers to kill 25-year-old Black motorist Jayland Walker during a traffic stop in Akron, Ohio. 

The city of Akron has been the scene of four consecutive days of demonstrations calling for accountability over the fatal incident that has once again caused outrage among racial justice advocates in the United States over police brutality against black Americans. 

The multiple videos that have been released following days of public pressure and anger show a fast police chase of Walker’s vehicle after a traffic stop on Monday, the victim then exiting the car and running from officers, and ends with the officers surrounding the 25-year-old in a parking lot. The police attempt to taser Walker before opening fire on him indiscriminately. 

Eight officers who were directly involved in the shooting spree have been placed on administrative leave. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an investigation on behalf of Akron city police, with the FBI also involved. 

The city’s Mayor Daniel Horrigan has pleaded with the public for calm and for patience while the investigation is taking place. "The video is heartbreaking, it's hard to take in," Horrigan acknowledged.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s President Derrick Johnson has published a statement saying the officers involved should be held accountable.

“This wasn't self-defense, it wasn't an accident in the heat of the moment, it was murder. Point blank," Johnson said. "This Black man was killed – struck more than 60 times by 90 fired bullets – for a possible traffic violation. This doesn't happen to white people in America” the statement read. 

Speaking at a press conference Akron’s police chief Steve Mylett admitted that “for many reasons, [the footage] is difficult to watch.. at the request of Mr. Walker’s family we have blurred Mr. Walker’s body” in the video. Asked if the officers had overreacted to any perceived threat, Mylett replied "I'm not going to pass judgment until the investigation is completed.”

Walker was accused by police of firing a gun while driving away from the traffic stop before allegedly leaving the pistol in the driver’s seat and trying to run from officers.

But the attorney representing the victim’s family Bobby DiCello has questioned the police narrative about the victim firing a gun. He emphasized how the videos show Walker running unarmed with his back to the officers when they opened fire. 

DiCello says the footage shows officers had fired up to 90 times on the former Amazon employee describing what he had seen on the police body-camera footage as “brutal” with officers’ gunfire sounding “like a whole brick of fireworks going off.”

Police investigators say they have not determined how many shots were fired despite Akron city’s medical examiner spotting around 60 gunshot wounds on Walker’s body. When the medical examiner reached the scene, Walker was found lying on his back while in handcuffs. He had been shot in the face, abdomen, and upper legs, according to a preliminary medical report. 

Speaking to a local newspaper, DiCello said his legal team has not seen any evidence Walker fired a weapon.

"He is just in a down sprint when he is dropped by I think the count is more than 90 shots, now how many of those land, according to our investigation right now, we're getting details that suggest 60 to 80 wounds."

DiCello explained that It was not clear how many bullets struck Walker because bullets can “cause wounds both entering and exiting the body.”

Walker had one traffic ticket and no criminal record, according to reports. In 2015, he graduated from a High School in Akron. He was working as a driver and had dreams of one day opening his own business, DiCello told the media.

The anxiety of the officials over Walker’s killing and the response to the release of the body-cam video has been widely reported. Mayor Horrigan has thanked the Walker family over their public appeal for calm saying the situation had potential for “aggression and violence” between officers and demonstrators.

In a sign of the authorities fear that public anger could turn to violence, officials had canceled the city’s public festival to mark the Fourth of July holiday weekend before releasing the police videos. 

“Independence Day is meant to be a celebration and a time of gathering with friends and family,” the city’s mayor said, “unfortunately, I feel strongly that this is not the time for a city-led celebration.”

Stunned residents and city leaders will now await the results of an investigation into Walker's death. Whether the protests will lead to violence and what level of unrest in the city is expected; remains to be seen. 

Before the release of the video an angry crowd had gathered outside the city courthouse and chanted “no justice, no peace, prosecute the police.” Authorities have placed large trucks to strategically serve as street barriers. The shooting was the third fatal one by a police officer in Akron in the past six months. 

Mike Lawlor, associate criminal justice professor also says the police video raises more questions than answers.

Speaking to local media he pointed out "if this started out as clear equipment violation, which usually means like a defective tail light or there's not a light on the license plate, something like that, that would never justify a pursuit in almost any part of the country," he said.

Lawlor also noted that the officers first use stun guns, which would not have been used if police believe their lives were in danger. 

The shooting was the latest in a spate of killings of black men by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. that have been widely condemned as racist and unjustified, including the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that ignited protests inside America and around the world. 

The police account of the deadly encounter with another black American and the question marks over the police narrative is also nothing new in the United States. 

According to research published by The Lancet last year, more than half of police killings in the U.S. are unreported and Black Americans are most likely to experience fatal police violence

Researchers made comparisons between data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and three non-governmental, open-source databases on fatal police violence, find out that NVSS had under-reported killings from police violence by 55.5 percent between 1980-2018.

Over the 40-year study period (1980-2019), Black Americans were estimated to be 3.5 times more likely to die from police violence than white Americans despite being a minority in the country. 

Studies also show police officers are still killing people at an alarming rate, according to a data analysis that has raised concerns about the Biden White House’s pledge to expand police investments.

According to Mapping Police Violence, a non-profit research group, as of March 24 this year, police killed on average about three people a day.

Experts say the data suggests in the two years since George Floyd’s murder, the U.S. has made very little progress in preventing deaths at the hands of the police. Since 2013, police have killed around 1,100 people each year and In 2021 officers killed 1,136 people, which is one of the deadliest years on record, the monitoring group reported.

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