AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – As tensions rise in the city of Akron, a group of residents gathered downtown to pray for peace.
A grand jury is being seated this week to determine whether eight police officers should be criminally charged in last summer’s shooting death of 25-year old Jayland Walker.
No one knows what decision the grand jury will make, but it appears many people in Akron are getting prepared.
Even Akron police officials have no idea because the investigation was conducted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
They call themselves “Love Akron” and Tuesday afternoon, they gathered downtown to pray for their city ahead some potentially troubling times.
“Jesus, we believe that you love the city more than you could,” one person could be heard praying, while holding a fence in front of the Summit County Courthouse.
“We’re praying first for comfort and peace for the Walker family, that’s first and foremost. We don’t ever want to forget the reason that we’re here, but also we’re praying for the leadership of our city, from the mayor to council to the grand jury,” said Pastor R. Stacey Jenkins, senior pastor of House of Prayer for All People.
A special grand jury is being seated this week to decide whether to criminally charge the Akron officers involved in the fatal shooting last June.
Police were pursuing Walker when they say he fired a round at them.
When he eventually stopped, there was a weapon on the passenger seat, but investigators say he was unarmed when police shot him 46 times.
“While we cannot know what the grand jury will decide, the Akron Police Department will be prepared for protests in the city,” said Akron police chief Steve Mylett.
Monday night, Chief Mylett issued a message of calm to the Akron community as the grand jury does its work.
“Every person in this country has a constitutional right to assemble and non-violently protest. In fact, Akron police officers took an oath that we would uphold the constitution,” the chief said.
Meanwhile, the Summit County Courthouse and the Akron police department are surrounded by steel barricades.
Street level windows of city hall are boarded up as well.
After weeks of riots and unrest in Akron after Walker’s killing, restaurants downtown on Main and Exchange streets have already begun boarding up their businesses in anticipation of a grand jury decision.
“Continue to pray, continue to pray for our city as a whole, pray for the Walker family, pray for our police department, our public officials. We have to pray and that’s what we’re called to do,” said Kemp Boyd, executive director of Love Akron.
The chief and lead city prosecutor have been going around to various neighborhoods in Akron, explaining the grand jury process and ways to protest legally and peacefully.
No one will say where the grand jury is in the process, but city officials say it will probably take about a week to present a case, once a panel is seated.