Profiled & Gunned Down: Protests in Akron After Police Shot Unarmed Jayland Walker 60+ Times




This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. A warning to our viewers and listeners: This segment continues to include graphic details, in this case about police violence.

Outrage over a police shooting in Akron, Ohio, prompted mass protests over the long weekend as people gathered outside the police department’s headquarters and marched downtown to demand justice for 25-year-old Jayland Walker, a Black man shot dead by police after a traffic stop June 27th. He was shot more than 60 times. At one point, protesters were confronted by police in riot gear who shot tear gas at them.

The protests came after police released multiple body-camera videos from the shooting in response to earlier demands from family and local activists. Police say the videos show a gunshot being fired from the car driven by Jayland Walker before he tried to drive away after police pulled him over for a minor traffic violation. Police say a gun was later recovered from his car. Jayland Walker was unarmed when police shot him dead.

The newly released body-camera video shows eight officers chasing Walker after he got out of his car and was running away. The video ends with the police firing 90 rounds and shooting Walker about 60 times, according to the autopsy. In this graphic video from the police footage, you can hear the barrage of police gunfire.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Don’t [bleep] move!

POLICE OFFICER 2: Hey! Don’t [bleep] move!

POLICE OFFICER 1: Don’t [bleep] move! Don’t [bleep] move!

POLICE OFFICER 2: Don’t [bleep] move! Get your hands up!

POLICE OFFICER 1: Show your hands! Show me your [bleep] hands!

AMY GOODMAN: Lawyers for the family of Jayland Walker say after police shot him 60 times, they handcuffed him before trying to provide first aid. These are Walker family attorneys Bobby DiCello and Elizabeth Paige White.

ELIZABETH PAIGE WHITE: Jayland was shot more times than I can count. And that is beyond troubling. We are done dying like this.

BOBBY DICELLO: They want to turn him into a masked monster with a gun. And we knew that. But I want to thank the chief for one thing he said. At the time he was shot, more than 90 or 60 or whatever the unbelievable number will be, he was unarmed.

AMY GOODMAN: The city of Akron canceled its Fourth of July fireworks show Monday, has issued a downtown curfew ahead of the results of a state probe into the police killing of Jayland Walker. At a protest Sunday, demonstrators put their fists in the air to remember him with a moment of silence.

For more, we go to Akron, Ohio, to speak with one of the people helping to lead protests calling for justice. Reverend Ray Greene Jr. is executive director of the Freedom BLOC — ”BLOC” stands for Black Led Organizing Collaborative — based in Akron. And still with us in nearby Cleveland, Ohio, former Ohio state Senator Nina Turner, who was recently a candidate for Ohio’s 11th Congressional seat and was a national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign.

Reverend Greene, let’s begin with you. Describe the chronology here of what you understood happened when Jayland Walker was killed, and then what happened after video was released.

REV. RAYMOND GREENE JR.: Good morning.

It’s very simple. The video shows that a Black man was spotted driving at night in an area he probably shouldn’t have been spotted, was profiled, was then chased and gunned down like he wasn’t human at all. Any other narrative is a disgrace to what we’ve seen in the video. What we’ve seen in the video is what I just described, an unarmed Black man being chased and gunned down. And that’s the simple facts of the matter.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend Greene, in terms of how the police chief has handled the situation since it happened, could you talk about that, as well, and the rapid release of the videos, which is unusual in a lot of these cases? Police try to hold back these videos for as long as they can.

REV. RAYMOND GREENE JR.: Yeah. First of all, in respects to the rapid release of the videos, the Freedom BLOC, along with Judi Hill of the NAACP and other community leaders, ensured that this process happened. We were on the committee to ensure that body-camera footage was released. So, other than that, this camera footage would not have been released. But we fought for a year to have this body-camera footage released in a timely manner. We actually wanted it quicker than that, but because of the FOP, we have to wait seven days to get that footage.

But I don’t put any of this on the chief. He has some blame to shoulder for this, but this is about our public safety director, Charles Brown. This is about our mayor. This is about two men that have been in power that have continued to let the culture of the Akron Police Department be ran by the union as opposed to what the citizens of this city needs. We have no control over this police department. Our mayor has no control over this police department. The only one to have control over this police department is the police union, the FOP. And that is the problem that we see. And now we just need new leadership. We need a new mayor. We need a new safety — public safety director.

And that’s the only way that this problem is going to change, with the FBI coming in, putting together a consent decree, Homeland Security doing a check on this department, a thorough investigation on this department. The FBI has already put out the report that all of these police departments have been infiltrated by terrorist groups, by white supremacists. And Akron in the 1920s had the second-largest Ku Klux Klan base, with over 400,000 members. And that’s what we see in our police department today, is a culture of racism, a culture of police that’s not from here, that has very little interaction with Black people. And this is what they think of. They chase us down, and they gun us down for a taillight violation, that, as you see on the video, is not evident.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking of that, could you talk about the police killing of 42-year-old Jeffrey Stephens back in July, I think it was 2008 —

REV. RAYMOND GREENE JR.: Yes.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — eerily similar to this incident?

REV. RAYMOND GREENE JR.: Yes, a young man who was a pillar of his community, who was protecting his block, protecting his street — what we ask our citizens to do. And the police rode up with no context, not being from here, not living in these communities, put there with no context, and gunned him down. Gunned him down. There is no other way to describe murder but to describe murder. This is murder.

And our police are getting away with murder, because our state representatives refuse to get rid of qualified immunity, refuse to put together legislation that protects citizens. They’d rather protect buildings. We have instituted a curfew here, because we’d rather protect buildings while we’re being gunned down like target practice for the lack of a taillight that is not even present in the video.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that what they say the traffic violation was, that they were pulling him over for, taillight?

REV. RAYMOND GREENE JR.: Yes, a broken taillight.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Turner, if you could weigh in here? This is a story you’re all too familiar with. In fact, I went with you — you took us to the playground —

NINA TURNER: You did.

AMY GOODMAN: — when the police had opened fire on — how old was the little boy in the playground?

NINA TURNER: Tamir Rice.

AMY GOODMAN: Tamir Rice.

NINA TURNER: Yeah. Tamir Rice was 12 years old.

AMY GOODMAN: Twelve years old.

NINA TURNER: Yeah, yeah, Amy. I —

AMY GOODMAN: The police killed him within seconds in the playground.

NINA TURNER: That’s right. That’s right. I remember it like it was yesterday, and us having that interview. And it was because of what happened to Tamir Rice that, you know, the governor, John Kasich, and I — and Governor Kasich is certainly a conservative Republican; everybody knows I’m a hell-raising humanitarian — but we were able to get together, and the governor created a task force on community and police relations because of that murder of Tamir Rice. We wanted to make sure that there were no incidences of violence that would erupt in the city of Cleveland or throughout Ohio. And we understood that people needed to have their voices heard. And that was in the latter part of 2014, Amy, as you remember. And we traveled the entire state in 2015 and collected information from citizens all across the state about how they felt about relationship, or lack thereof, with law enforcement agencies in the state of Ohio. And for the first time in Ohio’s history, there are standards for it. And the first standard we put together was the use of deadly force. So, one of the questions I would have for the mayor of Akron and the chief of Akron is whether or not they are adhering to the standards of the use of deadly force and the use of force.

Now, standards alone cannot do it. I agree with the reverend in that this is a cultural dynamic, not just in the Akron Police Department but in police departments all over this country. And it is very much coupled with a whole notion of treating Black bodies, Black minds, Black spirits as somehow less than everybody else. And if you are a Black man in America, you are indeed an endangered species, and that the laws that have been created in this country and the way that they are implemented shows very clear that there is no respect. That was a firing squad that happened to Jayland.

And so, we have Crimo, who just killed people, injured folks, armed. He was taken unharmed. You know what? He’s going to have his day in court. It would have been nice if Jayland would have been able to have his day in court, too. But, no, he’s a Black man, so he is treated differently. And I’m not saying that I want white men, white young men or older men, white men treated the way Black men are treated. What I do want is for Black men and boys to be treated like we treat white men and white boys.

Police officers are not here to be judge, jury and executioner, no matter what had happened. They should have brought him in. And certainly 60 bullets hitting this young man’s body, and then they handcuffed him and then tried to perform CPR, whatever the hell they said they were doing, you can’t do — he’s a man. He’s not superhuman. He was a man, a young man, but they treated him as though his life did not matter. The Black Lives Matter movement, that’s what it meant, Amy and Juan. Black lives matter, too. It is curious to me how these mass shootings among white men, they can be — they will be picked up, they’ll be taken to Burger King. They live to go to court. But for Black men, in particular, they don’t. We have a problem in this country, and we’ve got to deal with it and stop playing around with it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nina Turner, I wanted to ask you, in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement, it seems to me — and I’ve covered police and law enforcement for more than 40 years, so I’m very familiar with how police departments work. It seemed to me that in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, many of these police unions and police forces around the country almost entered into a slowdown. They no longer wanted to fight crime, because in some ways the police unions egged their members on to say, “OK, they want to put the cuffs on us now. They want to restrict us. We’re just going to let crime soar.” And, in fact, a lot of this crime — the soaring of the crime rate, that so many other people mention these days, I believe is a result of deliberate actions by these police unions to change public opinion. I’m wondering your sense of the power of these police unions across the country?

NINA TURNER: So, they are all powerful. And, Juan, I do agree with what you’re saying in terms of the slowdown. Look, I know that there are good law enforcement. You know, I have law enforcement in my family. And I get it, because I can see this from — I try to see it from all of the sides. But there comes situations where there is no gray. And what happened to Jayland, there is no gray.

And so, we need to — law enforcement agencies, good police officers need to be just as outraged as Reverend Greene and I are. They need to be just as outraged as the Black elected officials of Summit County, who are really standing up and taking a leadership position in this, calling on the Department of Justice to come in and do an investigation. One thing that the city did do that I definitely agree with is to ask the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations to step in, because the city of Akron cannot be trusted to do its own investigtions. And Reverend Greene just laid out why they cannot be trusted. So we need the Ohio Bureau of Investigations. But we also need the DOJ to step in here, as well.

We have a cultural problem within law enforcement agencies in the United States of America. And culture can be and must be changed, and it must start at the top, and there must be consequences for when that culture is not changed. Another thing that needs to happen is that more people of color need to be recruited to be in these law enforcement agencies, and more women, as well. Not saying that either of those two groups are perfect, but when we look at a chain of violence at the hands of police, it is usually at the hands of white men. So, the cultural dynamics and what policing really means — does it really mean to protect and serve? Because in Black and Brown communities, it doesn’t mean protect and serve; it means to lord over. That is a different mentality than what law enforcement has when they are in other types of communities.

Again, this is an American problem. Police officers, law enforcement agencies are just a microcosm of what is really happening in this country. And you know what it is? Black lives really do not matter. And that is shown time and time again, that white supremacy, that bigotry and that anti-Black racism is in full effect in these United States of America. And we need some truth and reconciliation. And what happens at the hands of law enforcement too often just reminds us of the unfinished work in United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, we just have 30 seconds, former Ohio state Senator Nina Turner, but I wanted to ask about the 10-year-old girl in Ohio who became pregnant after surviving rape, forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion after she was denied the procedure in Ohio because Ohio’s trigger law ban on abortions came into effect after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. Your response?

NINA TURNER: I mean, Amy, I fought with those Republicans when I was in the Legislature. And unfortunately, you’re right, the trigger law. She was a little over six weeks, a 10-year-old baby, who was just in kindergarten a few years ago. Ohio is child abuse. There’s nothing — no other way that you can call this. It is absolute child abuse. It is a stain on the state of Ohio. We are now, as far as I’m concerned, the worst state in the union at this point, after what happened to that 10-year-old baby and her having to go to Indiana. They wanted to force her to bring a rapist’s baby — a 10-year-old should not be having a baby. That just — I mean, it’s just too much. It is too much. And we’ve got to use our rage and our outrage to push for change.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Ohio state Senator —

NINA TURNER: But it’s wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: — Nina Turner, we thank you so much for being with us, as well as Reverend Ray Greene Jr., executive director of Freedom BLOC, ”BLOC” standing for Black Led Organizing Collaborative, based in Akron, Ohio.

Coming up, we go to Texas, where Uvalde’s school district police chief has resigned from his new position on Uvalde’s City Council. We’ll talk about the mass shooting, what we know — more significantly, what don’t know — about why there was so little action to save those 21 people, 19 of them fourth graders, in Uvalde. Stay with us.



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