AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — An air of uncertainty hung over Akron on Monday, as a special grand jury was being seated to consider evidence gathered by investigators with the state of Ohio in connection with the June 2022 shooting death of 25-year-old Jayland Walker by eight Akron police officers.
The officers have maintained that Walker set the deadly incident into motion when he fled after they tried to pull him over for equipment violations, fired a shot from his car and appeared to be reaching for something as they chased him on foot. The medical examiner concluded that Walker was struck 46 times in the hail of gunfire.
Speaking on Monday as the selection of the grand jury began at the Summit County Courthouse, Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville told FOX 8: “People are hurting. People are angry. People are frustrated. It’s my hope today that Jayland Walker’s family will get justice; that many questions that people have had over the course of many, many, many months, we’ll finally get some answers to.”
Renea Woods-Baylor, who owns a business and lives in downtown Akron, said it’s important for concerned Akronites to understand the role of the grand jury, which will ultimately decide if the officers will face criminal charges or will be cleared of wrongdoing.
“Grand juries are a very secretive process. It’s supposed to be to protect the jurors and protect the process, but a lot of people don’t know what that means. It’s going to take a lot for the community to get an understanding of whatever it’s going to be. I will stand behind it because I believe in justice,” said Woods-Baylor.
As the grand jury process unfolds, the city of Akron will eventually establish a designated demonstration zone for protesters along South High Street. Sommerville has reservations about the demonstration zone, telling FOX 8, “How do you grieve, right? How do you protest? So I’m not a huge fan of that. The only thing I’m asking is that Akron residents do whatever it is that you feel that you need to do, but do it in a peaceful way.”
As they wait for the next step in the Jayland Walker investigation, the thoughts of many Akron residents are with his family.
“I want to show that we’re wanting a change and that we’re supporting the family. The Walker family has been through a lot and it’s going to continue for the rest of their lives because they lost a son, a nephew, a grandson,” said Woods-Baylor.
The family of Jayland Walker issued a statement on Monday through their attorney:
Today an Akron grand jury began its process of determining whether the officers who gunned down Jayland Walker last Summer will be held criminally accountable for their actions. As part of that process, as Ohio law allows, the officers will be invited to testify before the grand jury on their behalf. Keep in mind that if any other Akron citizen was accused of a crime, they would not necessarily be afforded that same privilege. Simply put, it’s a process that favors the officers.
And against the backdrop of that process, the city is boarding up windows and bracing for violence. Why? Because the City of Akron doesn’t trust a significant portion of its citizens. It has decided that if there’s going to be violence, it will come from people who are sick and tired of a system that has ignored them and injured them for generations. City leadership doesn’t understand where that anger comes from. It doesn’t want to have that conversation because deep down, it simply doesn’t care what they are going through.
Today the family of Jayland Walker urges you to be mindful of how important it is that in America, everyone has equal access to justice and a fair process. They are not advocating for anything more than that. Unfortunately, this process is already stacked against them, but they will continue to fight for the justice that they and Jayland deserve.Statement from the family of Jayland Walker