AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett responded Saturday to recent criticism of Akron police interactions with demonstrators.
Video obtained by FOX 8 showed an officer hitting a protester multiple times with a closed fist.
“I’ve heard the calls for concern at the way Akron Police have responded to recent demonstrations. I’ve seen the videos and I understand that concern. I want the community to know that I am fully committed to de-escalating the tension in our city. We are always looking for ways to improve, and Chief Mylett and I have had ongoing conversations about our approach and our role in lowering the temperature and helping to de-escalate the violence and anger here in Akron. As we call for peace, we understand that call applies to all of us. I’m hopeful that we can all come to the table and begin to have the necessary conversations to create forward progress for our city,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said.
Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett says officers are receiving death threats.
“Our officers are understandably concerned for public safety and for the safety of their loved ones at this time. We have received death threats with officers’ information being posted. We’ve gotten news from the FBI about violent extremists coming to our city and posing as resident demonstrators in order to perpetuate violence. These are not excuses, but the reality of what our Akron Police officers and our community are currently facing. We understand that APD has an extremely important part to play in creating, maintaining, and promoting peace in our city, in addition to their top priority of protecting public safety. We are committed to those goals and to de-escalating the high tensions that exist. Again, we all want peace for Akron,” Chief Mylett said.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation rallied on Saturday afternoon on South High Street in response to Walker’s death and also the arrests of activists including Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake Jr., and Bianca Austin, aunt of Breonna Taylor.
The rallis included supporters from Black Lives Matter Cleveland, The Freedom Bloc, Serve the People Akron and community members throughout Northeast Ohio.
Video from SkyFOX showed protesters marching and blocking some intersections.
Protesters continue to express outrage that Jayland Walker was killed in a hail of 90 rounds fired by eight Akron police officers.
Akron police maintain Jayland Walker refused to pull over for a traffic stop on the morning of June 27th and then fired a shot from his car as he fled. The pursuing officers would later tell a supervisor that after the 25-year-old bailed out of his car and ran, they opened fire because they felt his movements indicated he posed a threat.
A gun and a loaded magazine were later found in his car.
Statement from Walker family legal team
Jayland Walker’s family’s legal team released a statement Saturday.
“As we have maintained since the beginning of this tragic ordeal, the Walker family is committed to achieving justice for Jayland through dignified and aggressive legal advocacy. While we are all appalled at what has transpired and are requesting an apology from the police department and the City of Akron and will be pursuing other transformative goals, violence in the streets will accomplish nothing and will only bring more anguish to our community. We are asking all residents to engage only in non-violent demonstration.”
Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello says funeral arrangements for Jayland Walker are still being finalized.
Akron council calls for day of mourning
Akron City Council leaders Saturday announced they are calling for a city-wide Day of Mourning due to recent violence.
Council president Margo Sommerville, Vice President Jeff Fusco and Pro-Tem Mike Freeman issued a press release calling for the Day of Mourning to take place Wednesday, July 13.
“…I am sickened and saddened by the premature and tragic loss of life that is pervasive in Akron, especially among our young people. Since Jayland Walker’s death, 3 additional Akron residents have succumbed to injuries sustained from senseless gun violence. Our city is grieving, and the grief is being further complicated with each loss of life. Things MUST change! When our hearts are broken, our heads don’t work!!!”
Friday night in Akron, 4-year-old Journey Tolbert and 40-year-old Johnny L. Gaiter were killed when someone fired shots into a crowd in the 700 block of Princeton St.
“The senseless loss of life is rampant and tragic no matter who pulls the trigger. As a city, we need time to process and express grief and heal. A City-Wide Day of Mourning will be an excellent beginning. But healing takes time and tangible actions. With that in mind, we have begun planning to host gatherings during which the community can come together and do just that!!”
Council President Margo Sommerville told FOX 8, “We have lost Jayland; we have also lost three additional lives, and with every life lost, our grief has been compounded.”
The City of Akron has reimplemented a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. It will remain in effect until the order is rescinded.
Mayor Dan Horrigan previously lifted it after violent demonstrations were followed by several nights of peace, but tension started to rise again Wednesday evening as demonstrators continued to protest.
Huge city plow trucks and concrete barriers were seen on Friday shutting off the public from Akron City Hall and the Justice Center.
“This has been a very difficult week for our city, to say the least, and I know we will be facing more challenges in the weeks ahead. This entire community is feeling the weight of Jayland Walker’s death. I am continuing to call for peace right here in our city,” said Horrigan.
Michael Harris, along with Blake and Austin, were among those arrested on Wednesday and charged with rioting.
Video shows an officer hitting Harris multiple times with a closed fist, while two other officers have his arms. Eventually, the group falls to the ground. The video does not show what happened in the moments leading up to the incident.
“Force was needed to effect their arrest,” police said in a statement released Thursday morning in reference to Wednesday night’s arrests.
Austin pled not guilty in court on Thursday. She was given a curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. and her bond was set at $2,500. Her pre-trial date is set for July 15 at 9:30 a.m.
Harris pled not guilty in court on Friday. His bond is set at $5,000. Harris is scheduled to appear again in court on July 13 at 9:30 a.m.
Jacob Blake Sr. is set for arraignment on July 12 at 12:30 p.m.
Horrigan and Police Chief Steve Mylett will begin hosting daily press briefings next week to provide residents with safety updates.
They’re also launching a website to serve as a collective hub for all available information regarding the shooting.
“I know that the situation in Akron is ever-evolving, and our community needs to have the most up-to-date information as quickly as possible,” Horrigan said. “Our new dedicated site and these daily briefings will help us better commit to our promise of transparency and allow our residents to have a clearer understanding of exactly what is happening as it occurs. I know Akron is hurting right now and there are a lot of questions in our communities. The easier we can make it for everyone to access information and get answers, the better.”
The briefings will start via a Zoom webinar on Monday, July 11.
NAACP spells out demands
The Akron Unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Saturday released a list of demands including a call to abolish car chases for equipment violations and minor traffic violations and routine state and federal oversight of Akron Police Department policing operations.
Stay with FOX 8 News and fox8.com for the latest developments.