An Ohio grand jury declined to bring charges against eight Akron police officers — seven of them white — in connection with last year’s fatal shooting of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black motorist, officials said Monday.
The jury of three men and six women, which included two Black panelists, returned a "no bill" against the officers, authorities said.
"The grand jury concluded officers were legally justified in their use of force," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced.
The special Summit County grand jury had been deliberating over the incident, which began June 27 after officers tried to pull Walker over for an alleged traffic violation, a darkened license plate light, authorities said.
The eight officers fired 94 shots at Walker in about 6.7 seconds, prosecutors revealed.
Yost called officer body camera video "especially grievous to watch” but said officers appeared to have the justification to use deadly force.
Police have said Walker fired one shot in their direction from his car during the chase.
That muzzle flash was captured by the dashboard camera of another pursuing officer, from the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department, Yost said.
Three of the eight officers who opened fire squeezed off 18 rounds, while the others unleashed 16, 11, six, four and three, respectively, prosecutors said.
“It is unusual, although hardly unprecedented, to have this many officers firing their weapon at the same time at a single subject. The sheer number of shots is one of the things that makes the video so hard to watch," Yost said.
“That being said, it is critical to remember Mr. Walker had fired on the police and that he shot first.”
State prosecutors declined to name the officers Monday and said that decision will be left with Akron police.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Anthony Pierson, a career prosecutor who presented the evidence to the grand jury, called Walker a "good man" who was acting totally out of character that early morning.
Prosecutors stopped short of saying Walker sought to harm himself and prompt a so-called "suicide by cop."
"I don't want to speculate as to what Mr. Walker was thinking at the time, but I can say this — Mr. Walker was going through a very tough time in his life," said Pierson, adding that Walker's fiancée had died shortly before the deadly chase.
"He was going through a very tough time, and he was hurting. And that night that he encountered the police, he was not acting himself. By all accounts, this was a good man, a good person with no prior criminal record, so he was not acting himself."
While Walker was fleeing, he was clearly running with an elbow flying high before he is alleged to have turned toward officers, Pierson said.
"As Mr. Walker turns at one particular point in time, he raises his arm out, and at that point in time he is shot by responding officers," Pierson said, showing still images taken from body cameras.
"The officers believed that Mr. Walker was a threat to them. They believed he was a threat to themselves and other officers. As a result he was shot."
Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello said Monday after the decision was announced, “We’ve all been shaken by this decision of the grand jury.”
He objected to boards over windows and other preparations as “casting all of us who believe in justice as people who would rather destroy things than have fairness.”
Walker's death touched off days of demonstrations in Akron and renewed debate about the treatment of Black people during routine police encounters.
The NAACP and an attorney for Walker’s family called for the Justice Department to open a federal civil rights investigation. The Justice Department responded by saying it was monitoring the case.
The eight officers opened fire on Walker, striking or grazing him with 46 rounds, authorities have said.
After last year's demonstrations led to property damage, some Akron businesses boarded up windows in anticipation of an announcement about charges against the officers.
Steel barricades were installed and security measures were stepped up around the Summit County Courthouse in recent days. Street-level windows at City Hall were covered with plywood.
Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said police are prepared for possible protests. If violent behavior occurs, police will declare an unlawful assembly and issue multiple warnings, as well as provide paths for people to leave, he said.
“Our sincere hope is that we’re not going to experience that this time,” Mylett said.
The fatal encounter unfolded at about 12:30 a.m. June 27 when officers tried to pull Walker over for the alleged traffic violation.
He did not stop, and officers “reported a firearm being discharged from the suspect vehicle,” Akron police have said.
Walker eventually ditched the car and was on foot when officers deployed stun guns before they eventually opened fire. Body camera video released by the department showed several officers chasing Walker as they shouted commands for him to stop.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Walker was not armed when he was gunned down. Police said a loaded handgun and a wedding ring were found on the driver's seat of his car, officials said.
Toxicology tests showed no drugs or alcohol in Walker's system.
Another of the Walker family’s attorneys, Paige White, said Monday that race played a role throughout the deadly case. She called it a miscarriage of justice and pledged to continue to fight for answers.
“Jayland was stopped because he was Black, he was murdered because he was Black, and there is no indictment today because he is Black,” White said.
A civil suit will be filed, most likely in June, DiCello said.
Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Ohio, said that she will ask the Justice Department to conduct a “pattern-or-practice” investigation into Akron police.