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Akron police release bodycam footage of the fatal shooting of Jayland Walker

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The killing of a Black man by police a week ago during an attempted traffic stop in Akron, Ohio, has led to renewed protests over the weekend.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

They're in response to body camera footage released by police.

MARTINEZ: Matt Richmond with Ideastream Public Media is covering the story for us. He's in Cleveland. Now, before we begin, we should warn you, footage is disturbing, and we're going to be discussing details of it.

Matt, this shooting happened one week ago today. Walk us through what happened.

MATT RICHMOND, BYLINE: So first, 60 is the number of gunshot wounds that were found on the body of Jayland Walker. That's according to the initial count from the medical examiner. He was killed by police after he fled in his car when officers were trying to make a stop for unspecified equipment violations and maybe a traffic violation. Eventually, Walker slowed down his vehicle and jumped out and ran. And after a couple of the eight officers who opened fire tried to use stun guns on him, they started shooting when they said or they reportedly said that they saw him make some action that was threatening. And it's not clear how many shots were fired, but officials say that the number that's out there right now - about 90 - is not far off.

MARTINEZ: Now, the body cam footage was released yesterday. What does it show?

RICHMOND: So the first thing that it showed is that as Jayland Walker drove his car onto the freeway, there's what appears to be a muzzle flash from his car. Officer says that that was a gunshot, and that changed the nature of the pursuit. And then you also saw the officer, as Walker tried to run, tried to use the stun guns, and then there was just a crescendo of gunfire. And it's important to note that Walker was unarmed at the time that he was shot. Officers found a unloaded gun inside of his car.

MARTINEZ: Now, you've been reporting from Akron. How have people been responding to the shooting?

RICHMOND: Walker's family and members of the local community are calling for accountability for police, but also for peace as daily demonstrations continue. The lead attorney for Walker's family said the most troubling fact was the amount of firepower used and the fact that you couldn't see what the threatening action was on the video that police have shared. Protests grew yesterday after they've been going on for several days. Yesterday's were organized by the local chapter of the NAACP and a local activist group, and there were several hundred people who were downtown outside of city hall. And they have remained peaceful so far.

MARTINEZ: OK. Now, Matt, what happens now?

RICHMOND: The eight officers who fired the shots are placed on paid administrative leave. Akron's police chief, Stephen Mylett, had this to say about what's expected, what sort of answers are now needed from the officers themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEPHEN MYLETT: When they make their most critical decision to point their firearm at another human being and pull the trigger, they've got 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 that goes for every round that goes down the barrel of their gun.

RICHMOND: So this will be the first test for some reforms that have been passed in Akron recently.

MARTINEZ: Matt Richmond with Ideastream Public Media. Matt, thanks a lot.

RICHMOND: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Matt Richmond comes to Binghamton's WSKG, a WRVO partner station in the Innovation Trail consortium, from South Sudan, where he worked as a stringer for Bloomberg, and freelanced for Radio France International, Voice of America, and German Press Agency dpa. He has worked with KQED in Los Angeles, Cape Times in Cape Town, South Africa, and served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. Matt's masters in journalism is from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC.