Fatal shooting of Black man by off-duty officer sparks protest in North Carolina
Deputy tells authorities Jason Walker, 37, jumped on to his vehicle as protesters challenge police version of events
Protesters gathered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a second night in a row on Monday after a man was killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
The Fayetteville police department identified the man killed on Saturday as Jason Walker, a 37-year-old Black man who the deputy told authorities jumped on to his vehicle. The Cumberland county sheriff’s office identified the deputy as Jeffrey Hash.
In a statement, Fayetteville police said a preliminary investigation revealed that Walker “ran into traffic and jumped on [the] moving vehicle”.
“The driver of the vehicle shot [Walker] and notified 911,” it said.
Hash, who has been with the Cumberland county sheriff since 2005, was taken into custody but not arrested. On Monday, he was put on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation. By Tuesday, no charges had been filed.
The Fayetteville police chief, Gina Hawkins, said data obtained from the “black box” of Hash’s truck revealed that “that vehicle did not impact anything or anyone” but a windshield wiper was torn off and used to break the windshield.
Hawkins said the weapon used by Hash was not his service weapon. She did not disclose how many shots were fired or where Walker was hit. Hawkins asked the North Carolina bureau of investigation to “take the lead in the investigation”.
Demonstrators challenged the police version of events, gathering outside the Fayetteville transit authority and chanting: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”
Elizabeth Ricks, a trauma nurse, told WRAL News she was on the scene and tried to save Walker’s life.
“I did not see anyone in distress. The man was just walking home,” she said.
“It breaks my heart he didn’t survive and I’m trying to cope with that as well. I don’t want to take away from Jason or the injustice and I’m not going to be silent.”
A cousin of Walker told WRAL News the police chief’s description of events did not sound like something Walker would do.
“We’re hearing one side of the story that sounds like a person that Jason is not, and then on the other side, we’re hearing a story that makes complete sense,” said the cousin, who was not identified by name.
“We have to take it one day at a time. Hopefully the system does what’s right and gets to the bottom of this. We really just want justice for Jason.”
According to Walker’s family, he was a single father and left behind a young son.
On Tuesday, the prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he would represent Walker’s family.
Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd after he was killed by former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020, disputed the police account of Walker’s death.
“At the crux of the matter, was Mr Walker shot in the back as he tried to return home? His parents lived across the street, less than 100 yards away,” Crump said on Twitter.
“We stand committed, with the family and the young son that Jason Walker left behind, to find answers as to what happened to him when he was senselessly shot and killed by off-duty deputy Jeffrey Hash.”
(c) 2022, The Guardian