Two major gun-related incidents leave US reeling

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Two major gun-related incidents have left the United States reeling in their aftermath, first in Akron, Ohio, where bodycam video released showed eight police officers involved in a shooting that killed an unarmed black man last week.

25-year-old Jayland Walker fled an attempted traffic stop on June 27, followed by a chase that would end on foot with the young man killed in a burst of gunfire with a medical examiner later finding at least 60 gunfire wounds in his body. In a separate, unrelated incident, a lone gunman, perched on a rooftop, opened fire on an Independence Day Parade in a Chicago, Illinois suburb killing six people and wounding 36 more.

The City of Akron, Ohio has declared a state of emergency, setting a curfew and canceling Independence Day fireworks when protests erupted after the latest police shooting of an unarmed black man. Police say a gunshot was fired from the car driven by Jayland Walker, who fled in his vehicle with police in hot pursuit.

After a chase lasting several minutes, Walker jumped out of his vehicle and ran from police who say they opened fire when he appeared to be turning towards them, thinking he was armed. A gun was later recovered from his abandoned car. Daniel Horrigan is the Mayor of Akron.

“There’s no doubt that the video you just watched is extremely disturbing and will stir a lot of emotions and feelings. It’s shocking and hard to take in. But what we are collectively calling for is peace this afternoon. It’s the same thing Mr. Walker’s family is calling for and it’s the ask of everyone standing here with me in the community.”

 A call for justice 

Protestors quickly took the streets in a largely peaceful call for justice, with post-mortem records showing Walker’s body hit more than 60 times after eight officers, who have since been placed on administrative leave, fired more than 90 rounds at him. The deceased’s family attorney called the police’s response unreasonable.

“His name is Jayland, and he’s not a monster. They want to turn him into a masked monster, with a gun. And we knew that. But I want to thank the chief, for one thing, he said. At the time he was shot more than 90 or 60 or whatever the unbelievable number will be, he was unarmed. If you can do anything for the family, please give peace, give dignity and give justice a chance for Jayland,” says Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello.

About 600 kilometers west, in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, a Fourth of July parade became a scene of mayhem when a gunman indiscriminately fired a high-powered rifle from a rooftop into the crowd leaving chaos, carnage, and grief in his wake.

“I’m furious, I’m furious that yet more innocent lives were taken by gun violence. I’m furious that their (victims) loved ones are forever broken by what took place today. I am furious that children and their families have been traumatized. I’m furious that this is happening in communities all over Illinois and America. I am furious because it does not have to be that way, and yet we as a nation, well, we continue to allow this to happen. While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly, yes weekly tradition,” says Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Police have since taken a “person of interest” into custody.

“To name a person of interest, doesn’t come lightly. There is a lot of investigative work that has gone into this. We’ve got, as I mentioned before, hundreds of investigators here on the scene, from our federal partners, Highland Park Police, Lake County, and major crime doing an incredible job. They’ve processed a significant amount of digital evidence today which helped lead investigators in this direction. So calling somebody a suspect or person of interest, it’s really synonymous. Okay. So this individual is believed to have been responsible for what happened and the investigation will continue. Charges have not been approved yet at this time. And we’re a long way from that,” says Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force.

In the Akron shooting, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now probing the police actions that will conjure up memories of George Floyd and so many other black victims who have died at the hands of men and women in uniform.

And on the latest mass shooting near Chicago, President Joe Biden pointed to the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation recently signed into law, adding that much more needed to be done and that he would not give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence in the country.