Lawsuit seeks justice for the Walker family and to hold the city and police officers accountable for killing Jayland Walker, an unarmed young, black man in a barrage of gunfire on June 27, 2022
AKRON, Ohio, June 16, 2023 – Today the family of Jayland Walker filed a lawsuit in Ohio federal court against the City of Akron and the eight officers that brutally shot and killed him last summer. The suit, filed by the family through their legal counsel at DiCello Levitt, claims the officers used excessive force in their encounter with the unarmed Walker on June 27, 2022. It also notes that the violent behavior of the eight shooters was made possible by a culture of violence and racism within the Akron Police Department.
The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, seeks not less than $45 million in damages, $1 million for each bullet that struck Jayland Walker. In addition to the City of Akron and the officers involved in the shooting, the lawsuit also names as defendants Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan and Chief of Police Stephen Mylett.
The Walker family legal team will host a press conference to discuss the lawsuit today, Friday, June 16, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. EDT outside the First Congregational Church of Akron (292 E. Market St., Akron, Ohio). The family’s attorneys, Bobby DiCello and Kenneth Abbarno of DiCello Levitt will be joined by Jayland Walker’s mother, Pam Walker, his sister, Jada Walker, and Akron community leader, Pastor Robert DeJournett. For members of the media who are unable to attend, the press conference will be streamed live HERE.
On June 27, 2022, eight Akron police officers pursued Walker for a minor traffic violation. The pursuit ended as he ran from the officers unarmed, and they fired more than 90 rounds at him. He was struck not less than 45 times and died as some of the officers attempted to reload their empty magazines. Walker was not under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other substance, according to a toxicology report. As Walker lay on the ground already deceased, the officers handcuffed his hands behind his back.
The incident made national headlines for its excessive use of lethal force and the unethical handling of the subsequent investigation by the City of Akron and the Akron Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP repeatedly inserted itself into a supposedly independent probe, gained access to confidential details of the investigation that it should not have had, and leaked inflammatory information to the media in an apparent attempt to influence public sentiment in favor of the officers. The officers responsible for killing Walker were allowed to return to police duty while still under criminal investigation, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s process was weighted in the officers’ favor, with a Fraternal Order of Police lawyer allowed to testify on the officers’ behalf at a grand jury proceeding in place of the officers themselves. The grand jury ultimately declined to deliver criminal indictments.
“A year has passed since Jayland Walker was violently ripped away from his family, and still they have not been able to achieve justice and accountability,” said Bobby DiCello, a DiCello Levitt partner and legal counsel to the Walker family. “The City of Akron and its police department have been given every opportunity to participate in a fair process to address what went wrong last June 27. At every turn, they protect their officers from accountability. Now we must engage the judicial process to accomplish what the city was unwilling to do—hold these officers accountable for their actions. We will use the judicial system to ensure that Jayland Walker and his family get the justice they deserve.”
In describing the culture of violence and racism within the Akron Police Department, the complaint points to an unofficial, satirical newsletter maintained by City of Akron employees titled “Signal 44 (PBS to Air a New Wildlife Documentary),” which repeatedly likened Akron citizens to wild animals and contained violent and overtly racist content. The newsletter was discovered in 1998 and was the subject of an Internal affairs inquiry. As part of the inquiry, several currently employed veteran Akron police officers were interviewed by investigators:
- Officer Clay Cozart, currently an Akron police detective and president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #7, said at the time that he was not offended that his name was in the newsletter and that publicity about it was “unfair.”
- Officer Brian Simcox, currently a Lieutenant in the Akron Police Department, said he thought the newsletter’s contents were “hilarious.”
- Officer Brian Harding, currently a Deputy Chief in the Akron Police Department, said he felt the newsletter had no adverse effect on the shift, and thought the contents were “funny.”
- The newsletter’s author, Terry Pasko, remained employed as a City of Akron police officer until he retired as a Captain in 2019.
“It’s shocking that not only was no officer fired for his involvement in the Signal 44 newsletter, nobody was even disciplined and many of the officers who had no issue with the violent and racist content were allowed to advance to the leadership positions they hold today,” said Ken Abbarno, a DiCello Levitt partner and legal counsel to the Walker family. “While the Walker family must be compensated for the unimaginable trauma it has endured over the last year, more than anything, this lawsuit seeks meaningful change that will hopefully end the culture of violence and racism that the City of Akron has long allowed to poison its police department.”
The case is Jada Walker, et.al. v. City of Akron, et.al. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. A copy of the complaint is available upon request, and the attorneys are available for media interviews.
About DiCello Levitt
At DiCello Levitt, we’re dedicated to achieving justice for our clients through class action, business-to-business, public client, whistleblower, personal injury, civil and human rights, and mass tort litigation. Our lawyers are highly respected for their ability to litigate and win cases—whether by trial, settlement, or otherwise—for people who have suffered harm, global corporations that have sustained significant economic losses, and public clients seeking to protect their citizens’ rights and interests. Every day, we put our reputations—and our capital—on the line for our clients.
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