The eight police officers who shot Jayland Walker last summer used excessive force when they fired 94 bullets at him during a foot chase and participated in a “culture of violence and racism” within Akron’s police department, according to a lawsuit filed in Ohio federal court Friday.
Months after a grand jury declined to indict the unnamed officers in the death of Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, his family is seeking at least $45 million in damages from the officers, the city of Akron and city officials, according to a press release.
“Jayland Walker’s death has been mischaracterized as his fault,” Bobby DiCello, an attorney for the Walker family, said in a press conference Friday. He called that mischaracterization “repugnant.”
During a routine traffic stop on June 27, 2022, police officers fatally shot Walker after he fired a single bullet from his vehicle, then ran from the officers, according to a state investigation. He left the gun in his still-moving car.
His death gained national attention and roiled yet another city amid heightened tensions with police over the killing of a Black man that started with a traffic stop.
The officers fired the nearly 100 bullets at Walker in less than 7 seconds when he refused to put up his hands and appeared to reach into his waistband, believing him to be armed and a “deadly threat,” the state investigation said.
Police officers violated Walker’s rights to freedom from excessive force under the fourth amendment when they shot him in a hail of gunfire even though Walker was unarmed, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further alleges that for years, and without consequences, the city of Akron, Mayor Daniel Horrigan and Chief of Police Stephen Mylett have knowingly allowed Akron police officers to engage in “violent behavior” that “disproportionately involves African Americans.”
The lawsuit goes on to list several alleged instances of Akron police officers using excessive force. It also includes a 1998 newsletter disseminated in the police department that repeatedly refers to Akron residents as animals, and states that a past internal investigation found that police officers currently employed by the department “read, received, circulated or found humorous” the newsletter.
“The story of how Jayland Walker died begins in that year, when this newsletter was circulated,” DiCello said, calling the content “hateful, violent porn.”
The city of Akron and the mayor’s office declined to comment about pending litigation. The Akron Police Department did not immediately respond to request for comment.