By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) -The Ohio city of Akron declared a state of emergency on Monday, setting a curfew and canceling Independence Day fireworks, after protests over the police killing of an unarmed Black man turned unruly on Sunday night.
The protests broke out after police released body camera video that showed eight officers shooting at Jayland Walker, 25, as he fled a traffic stop last week. Walker’s body was found to have some 60 gunshot wounds.
Daytime protests on Sunday were peaceful but, despite pleas from the Walker family that demonstrations remain peaceful, Akron police declared an unlawful assembly once property was damaged. Officers in riot gear fired about a dozen canisters of tear gas to scatter protesters, WKYC-TV said.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said a curfew for downtown Akron was in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice, and a pair of Fourth of July fireworks displays also were canceled.
“There was significant property damage done to downtown Akron. Small businesses up and down Main Street have had their windows broken. We cannot and will not tolerate the destruction of property or violence,” Horrigan said in a statement.
The Jayland Walker shooting marks the latest in a series of police killings of unarmed Black men, raising questions about police use of force and equal justice for African Americans, and contributing to increased polarization in the United States.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Reuters the Justice Department, including the Civil Rights Division and the FBI field office in Akron, is closely monitoring and evaluating the situation surrounding Walker’s death.
“This footage is disturbing,” Bates said. “And no family should ever have to endure the horrific pain and loss of a loved one that the Walker family is experiencing right now.”
Police said Walker had a gun in his car but left it on the front seat as he fled on foot. Officers believed he fired a round from inside the car before fleeing, police said, and that Walker was “moving into firing position” when he got out of his car, prompting them to react to him as a potential threat, Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett said.
VOW OF ‘FAIR’ INVESTIGATION
The mayor praised the peaceful protests, which were led by the Akron chapter of the NAACP. Hundreds of demonstrators marched in the streets of the city of about 200,000 people, waving “Black Lives Matter” flags and chanting, “We are done dying,” and “Justice for Jayland.”
Horrigan said the trouble began after nightfall, a pattern that was seen in the turbulent summer of 2020, when protests spread across the United States over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. Officers were later convicted of various charges including murder and civil rights violations in the Floyd case.
On Sunday, the attorney for the Walker family, Bobby DiCello, told reporters he was “very concerned” about the police accusation that Walker had fired at officers from his car, adding that there was no justification for his violent death.
“I ask you, as he’s running away, what is reasonable? To gun him down? No, that’s not reasonable,” DiCello said.
The Ohio attorney general and Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation are investigating, and the file will be made public at the conclusion of the case, Attorney General Dave Yost said on Sunday.
“People want and deserve answers, and they shall have them. BCI will conduct a complete, fair and expert investigation,” Yost said in a statement
The eight officers directly involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, the Akron police chief said.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason.Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Berkrot)