8 Ohio officers followed policy in Jayland Walker case, police chief says
“This was a very dynamic, dangerous and fluid event, and all officers were focused on safely apprehending the fleeing suspect,” Chief Steve Mylett stated
By Adam Ferrise
AKRON, Ohio — The eight Akron police officers who opened fire on Jayland Walker, killing the 25-year-old in a hail of bullets, will not be disciplined, the city’s outgoing police chief said Tuesday.
Steve Mylett, whose retirement from the department will be effective on Jan. 1, found that the officers’ actions during the fatal encounter were “objectively reasonable.”
The internal investigation into whether any city policies were violated came after a grand jury in April rejected criminal charges against the officers who fired 94 bullets at Walker, hitting him 45 times.
“I found that the facts and circumstances of this tragic shooting show that the officers had an objectively reasonable belief that Mr. Walker was armed and by his conduct presented an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to them and/or their fellow officers,” Mylett wrote in a summary of the investigation. “I also believe the special grand jury determined the officers’ use of force was not excessive when it decided against criminal charges.”
The eight officers who unloaded their guns on Walker on June 27, 2022, still have not been identified. The city repeatedly refused to release the names of the officers, citing their safety.
Walker’s family filed a lawsuit in federal court in Akron that seeks $45 million — $1 million for each bullet that hit Walker— is pending. The lawsuit said the officers’ actions were clearly excessive.
“Everyone should be encouraged to read what the Chief of Police wrote. He said Jayland’s shooting ‘was in compliance with the policies of the Akron Police Department.’ That says it all,” Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello said in a statement. “While not unexpected, it is exactly this position that makes it critical for us to continue the lawsuit on behalf of Jayland Walker’s family. In fact, it is exactly because of this position, that we look forward to moving this case further through our justice system.”
Clay Cozart, the president of Akron Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, said in a statement the officers’ union agreed with the findings.
“Unfortunately, Jayland Walker created dangerous circumstances, which led to the use of deadly force,” Cozart’s statement said. “Though tragic, our officers were within the law and agency policy.”
Officers in the early morning hours tried to stop Walker’s car for a broken taillight and license-plate light. Walker initially stopped, but then he drove on an Ohio 8 entrance ramp. A gunshot was fired from Walker’s car, authorities said.
Officers chased Walker until he stopped in the parking lot of the Bridgestone Center for Research and Technology on South Main Street.
Walker got out of his car, without a weapon, and ran from officers. Investigators said he turned slightly in the officers’ direction and reached near his waistband.
Eight officers fired shots, including several who unloaded the full amount of bullets in their guns.
The shooting sent shockwaves through the city and touched off days of protests. It also led to calls by politicians, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting.
The internal investigation focused on whether the officers followed department policies. Mylett wrote that the situation was fluid and dangerous and that the officers were within policy when they fired at Walker.
Though internal investigators found that one of the officers carried an extended clip with six extra bullets the day of the shooting, Mylett wrote that the policy was “vague.” He said the officer believed he was allowed to carry an extended clip and that the officer fired less than the full amount of bullets he had in his gun.
The policy has since been changed.
Mylett also said that investigators found two officers joined the car chase without prior authorization and that officers in those cars did not immediately activate their body cameras. Mylett, however, said he did not believe the officers “intentionally violated policy.”
Mylett cleared officers of wrongdoing for driving close to Walker’s car, bumping his car door shut and trying to use Tasers on Walker before firing gunshots.
“This was a very dynamic, dangerous and fluid event, and all officers were focused on safely apprehending the fleeing suspect and when presented with a reasonably perceived life-threatening danger, (they) acted to protect themselves and their fellow officers,” Mylett wrote.