Jayland Walker’s lawyers claim police removed ‘Justice for Jayland’ signs

"We are deeply troubled that the Akron Police Department has taken it upon itself to act as the city's censor in deciding which expressions of free speech are appropriate and which are not," said attorneys in a statement.

Jayland Walker’s legal team says it is “dismayed” by a video that purports to show Akron police officers removing a “Justice for Jayland” sign from an Akron neighborhood.

In a statement to theGrio, the Walker family lawyers, Bobby DiCello and Ken Abbarno, criticized the police. 

A person leaves the funeral of Jayland Walker at the Akron Civic Theatre on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in Akron, Ohio. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal via AP)

“Our legal team visited these locations and was dismayed to discover that while other signs supporting various causes or businesses remain, only those critical of the APD or supporting the Walker family’s cause were removed,” the statement said.

“We are deeply troubled that the Akron Police Department has taken it upon itself to act as the city’s censor in deciding which expressions of free speech are appropriate and which are not,” the statement said.

TheGrio left email and voicemail messages for Lt. Michael Miller, the department’s press information officer, but could not reach him for comment.   

Walker, 25, died in a hail of police gunfire in the early morning hours of July 27 in Akron, Ohio. Police say they tried to initiate a traffic stop, but Walker didn’t comply. Authorities say a shot came from the car Walker was driving and that he exited the vehicle and ran from police. Cops say Walker eventually turned toward them, and eight police officers fired 90 rounds, striking Walker 46 times. Police suspended the officers pending an investigation into the shooting.

In August, in an extended interview with theGrio, the Walker family described the continued pain they experienced from losing their son, brother, and cousin.  

Since then, police have reinstated the eight officers. At a community meeting, Police Chief Steve Mylett said he needed the officers on active duty because of a shortage of cops.

The lawyers criticized that decision, noting that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation hasn’t finished its probe into the shooting,

Mylett “cited a severe shortage of police officers, which he claimed would necessitate cutting police services that were essential to the community,” the statement said. “Does the removal of peaceful protest signs really constitute an essential police service? If Chief Mylett can afford to utilize his police officers for such a menial task, was it really necessary to reinstate eight officers accused of murder in the midst of an active investigation?”

On Nov. 28, the Summit County Crime Watch posted a video on its Facebook page that purports to show Akron police placing a “Justice For Jayland “sign in a police cruiser. The post claims the officers “removed” the sign from an Akron neighborhood.

Investigators for Walker’s legal team went to the area on Dec. 1 and said they saw signs advertising for, among other things, junk removal, gutter installers, and detox facilities. The investigators did not list any “Justice for Jayland “signs in the surveyed areas.

Miller told the Akron Beacon Journal that police are aware of the situation and are investigating. 

The Walker’s lawyers remain unhappy.

“These signs were placed in our community in an act of peaceful protest, and their removal demonstrates a profound level of tone deafness by the city,” the statement said. “Akron officials have preached “keeping the peace” since its officers shot and killed Jayland last June, yet they apparently can’t handle the least bit of peaceful criticism of their actions.”

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