Days after Jason Walker, a Black man who was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy last week, attorney Ben Crump spoke at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, demanding answers for Walker’s death.
Crump, the civil rights attorney who represented the family of George Floyd and has been retained by the Walker family, told a rally at a Fayetteville church that Walker was the single father of a 14-year-old son.
Walker, 37, was killed Saturday near his home in Fayetteville by off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeffrey Hash.
“There are a lot of reasons why Black children have to grow up without their fathers,” Crump said. “But this reason is unacceptable. This is unacceptable that we have to tell that young boy that his father was shot unnecessarily, unjustifiably and unconstitutionally by somebody who was supposed to protect and serve him.”
Walker’s family and other members of the community filled the pews, cheering in unison at times and staying somber at others.
“We’re not asking for anything extraordinary,” Crump added. “All we’re asking for is the truth. It is not lost on me that when Jason Walker was shot multiple times, he was close to home,” Crump said.
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A released 911 call from Hash revealed the lieutenant said Walker pulled off his windshield wipers and began beating the windshield, breaking it. “I just had a male jump on my vehicle and broke my windshield. I just shot him. I am a deputy sheriff,” Hash said during the call.
Hash was placed on paid administrative leave Monday pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Sheriff Ennis Wright said.
A judge on Thursday granted a request from Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins to release body camera video recorded in the aftermath of the shooting death. Hawkins filed the petition with the courts on Tuesday.
She wanted to publicly release footage that she says will show exchanges between Fayetteville police officers and three witnesses at the scene of the fatal shooting, according to The Fayetteville Observer, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Two witnesses have made comments on social media, released a video and spoken at a demonstration, creating “significant public attention,” according to the petition. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons told the Fayetteville Observer that he approved the release “in the interest of justice.”
Under a North Carolina law passed in 2016, body and dash-camera footage is not public record. Anyone can ask a court to order its release, however.
Fayetteville police said Monday that a preliminary investigation determined that Walker, 37, “ran into traffic and jumped on a moving vehicle.” Hash shot Walker and then called 911, police said. Walker was pronounced dead at the scene.
Crump questioned Hash’s version of events, saying it doesn’t pass the “common sense test.” He asked why Hash used deadly force rather than de-escalating the situation.
“He was supposed to be trained to protect and serve lives, not take lives,” Crump said.
Crump said Walker’s family has not been contacted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which is probing his death. The Fayetteville City Council has also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case.
Walker’s case first has to be fought in the court of public opinion, Crump said. “If we win there, then maybe we can fight in the court of law,” he added.
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Walker’s family members spoke at the pulpit after Crump, some so filled with emotion they were only able to say “thank you” to the community.
“I don’t know what to say about my son,” his father, Anthony Walker, said. “I don’t know what to say. I can’t hardly talk about him.”
His brother, Marlowe Walker, said he last spoke to Jason Walker on the phone Friday, the day before he was killed. “The last thing he said before he got off the phone was ‘I love you,’” Marlowe Walker said.
He listed a few things his brother loved: gardening, fishing, landscaping, working on computers, music.
Demonstrators have protested each day since Walker was killed. They have demanded justice for Walker and called for Hash to be arrested.
Contributing: Paul Woolverton, Steve DeVane, Kristen Johnson, Jacob Pucci, F.T. Norton; The Fayetteville Observer; The Associated Press