Akron, Ohio, USA – May 30, 2020: A sign held up by a protester during a demonstration against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officers. (Shutterstock)
By Meredith Deliso, ABC News
Ohio officials are calling for calm in Akron, which has been rocked by protests following the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker, after two people, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed Friday night at a family celebration.
“This has been a very difficult week for Akron, almost two weeks for Akron. The heat is very very high, tensions are running high in this city,” Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said at a press briefing late Friday night. “We’re asking for people to stand down for at least 48 hours, let the temperature come down.”
Mylett was joined in the message by Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and several community pastors outside Akron Children’s Hospital, where the 4-year-old girl died earlier after suffering severe head wounds in the shooting, the chief said.
A 40-year-old man was also critically injured after multiple shots were fired into a large crowd gathered near downtown Akron around 9:15 p.m., police said. He later died from his injuries at an area hospital.
The victims were identified by the Summit County Medical Examiner Saturday morning as 4-year-old Journei Tolbert, and 40-year-old Johnny Gaiter, both from Akron.
“We don’t know exactly what happened yet but we’re going to find out and we’re going to find the people that are responsible for this,” Mylett said Friday night.
The shooting was unrelated to the ongoing protests, the chief told the Akron Beacon Journal.
As the investigation into the homicides and search for suspects is underway, officials called for the city to “deescalate.”
“There is a lot of heightened tension in the right now,” Mayor Horrigan said. “There’s a level in this community that we need to bring down.”
Pastor Bradley Reeves with Restoration Community Church was one of several religious leaders who joined the briefing outside the hospital.
“Not only does the community need to calm down, but the police need to calm down, too,” he said. “Some of this is bad emotions and is leading to bad actions. Everybody’s got to stop. There’s a baby here that won’t see 5.”
Despite the calls from city officials, protests continued Saturday in support of Walker, who was fatally shot by police on June 27 after a traffic stop turned into a pursuit. The 25-year-old Black man was unarmed and running away when eight Ohio officers opened fire on him, body-camera footage released by the city showed.
The incident is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
On Thursday, the city instated a nightly curfew for downtown Akron that was implemented amid largely peaceful protests over Walker’s killing, after some protesters became violent with officers, the city said.