News that the body of Jayland Walker, the Akron, Ohio Black man killed by police in a hail of bullets during an arrest, arrived at the coroner’s office handcuffed fueled the outrage of protesters, angered over his death.
But Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett told local Cleveland station WEWS that his besieged officers were just following protocol. The department’s procedures require arresting officers to immediately handcuff suspects for safety –the handcuffs stay on even after the suspect is pronounced dead to preserve the crime scene.
"If this was my brother, if this was my son, if this was my grandson, I would not like that, and I understand that, truly I do. And I am going to have a conversation with others about the need for that," Mylett said, adding that he’s looking into perhaps changing the policy.
On June 27, an attempted traffic stop turned into a high-speed car chase, according to the Akron Police Department. Walker, 25, allegedly exited his vehicle and fled on foot. The police said Walker turned at them and moved “into a firing position,” which led to officers firing at him dozens of times, striking his body with at least 60 bullets. During the shooting, several of the officers emptied their clips into Walker while he lay on the ground.
Mylett said Walker was unarmed when the eight officers involved fatally shot him. However, he said a gun was found in his vehicle. During the car chase, officers told dispatch that a gunshot was fired from Walker’s vehicle, and still images from traffic cameras appear to show a possible gun muzzle flash.
Mylett defended the officers’ decision to engage in a dangerous high-speed chase of Walker.
"So here's the challenge for us: when a person refuses to pull over, there are so many different scenarios why the person is not stopping,” Mylett told WEWS, adding that the department has a history of canceling pursuits but the alleged gunshot from Walker’ vehicle compelled the officers to continue.
He said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting a probe into the shooting. The investigation includes determining whether a shell casing found where surveillance cameras recorded an apparent muzzle flash came from Walker’s car. Mylett noted that police body camera footage shows that the gun in Walker’s car was found with a magazine and ring in the driver’s seat.
Mylett has declined to identify the officers involved in the shooting because “there have been death threats made against them.” The officers are on paid administrative leave while internal and state investigations are ongoing.
Meanwhile, following an outcry for federal oversight of the investigation, President Biden announced on July 6 that federal law enforcement agencies will monitor the probes’ developments.