(AKRON, Ohio) — The eight officers who fatally shot Jayland Walker, the 25-year-old Black man killed during an attempted traffic stop in Akron, Ohio, have been reinstated, according to the Akron Police Department.
Some community leaders are opposing the move, saying it will lead to “the erosion of any trust remaining between the community and police.”
The officers remain under investigation by their own department as well as the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, authorities said.
The officers were on paid administrative leave following the fatal shooting. According to ABC affiliate WEWS-TV, they were brought back on duty because to a staffing “crisis” at the department, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said. According to the department, the officers are on administrative duty and will not be in uniform or on patrol.
“I recognize that this decision will have an impact. And there may be some community concern, but I didn’t take this decision lightly,” Mylett told the local station. “And I think this decision is in the best interests of the citizens and businesses of Akron.”
Bishop Joey Johnson, a pastor at The House of the Lord, said that the move to reinstate the officers will cause a lot of pain in a city that’s still healing. He was one of 43 community activists and religious leaders who penned a letter dated Oct. 21 to the chief about their frustrations regarding his choice to move forward with reinstating the officers.
“The family is hurting. They’re in grieving. They are traumatized,” said Johnson. “Bringing people back before the investigation is done seems like it is bringing more pain,” Johnson said.
Mylett did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. But on Oct. 25, he released a response letter to the Akron community, saying the decision was not made “in haste,” that he still thinks it was “the correct decision given the public safety challenges of the entire community” and stands by the decision “and his commitment to build a stronger Akron.”
The chief told the Akron Beacon Journal that he was disappointed by the letter, saying he had a “consensus” from community leaders to move forward with the reinstatement.
While community leaders figure out what next steps to take in their fight for “love and justice,” Johnson said they’re focused on being able to “move toward unity … with all parties.”
“Our priority is being able to help our community, particularly when the verdict comes out,” said Johnson. “The family is hurting. They’re in grieving. They are traumatized.”
The Walker family applauded religious leaders for their letter, and slammed Mylett for returning the officers to the department.
“It is the very definition of hypocrisy for Chief Mylett to claim, as he has previously, that his department is working hard to build trust among Akron’s minority communities, and then make a callous decision like this that fosters further distrust of the Akron Police Department among this population, while jeopardizing the legitimacy of BCI’s investigation,” read a statement from the family’s legal team.
Walker was unarmed when he was fatally shot by police on June 27 after a traffic stop turned into a pursuit. He was running away when eight officers opened fire on him, body camera footage released by the city showed.
As officers pursued Walker, officials said a flash of light seen in body camera footage appeared to be the muzzle flash of a gun coming from the driver’s side of Walker’s car.
In a second body camera video, officers are heard radioing that a shot was being fired from Walker’s car.
Later in the pursuit, Walker slowed down and jumped out of the passenger side door before it came to a full stop, according to the footage. As Walker ran away from police, several officers simultaneously fired several bullets, fatally shooting him, body camera footage released by the city showed.
He was unarmed when he was shot, but a gun was found in his car by officials.
Walker had 46 gunshot wounds on his body, according to an autopsy report conducted by the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Walker also had injuries to his face, heart, both lungs, liver, spleen, left kidney, intestines, pelvis, iliac artery and several bones in his legs, to chief medical examiner Lisa Kohler.
His manner of death has been ruled homicide and the toxicology report showed no use of drugs nor alcohol by Walker at the time of the incident.
“The family is devastated by the findings of the report and still await a public apology from the police department,” the Walker family’s legal team said in a statement to ABC News.
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