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'Rally for Justice': North Carolina protests Black man's killing by off-duty officer

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protesters hold signs with a photo of Jason Walker during a demonstration in front of the Fayetteville Police Department. (Photo by AP)

The fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man by an off-duty white police officer in a North Carolina town last week has led to angry protests in recent days.

The incident, which took place in Fayetteville last Saturday, saw an off-duty police officer, Jeffrey Hash, opening fire at Jason Walker, a 37-year-old Black man.

According to reports, Walker was crossing the street near his parents' house when Hash shot at him, leading to his instant death. It is not known what transpired between them.

On Thursday, a large number of people in Fayetteville gathered and rallied to seek justice for the victim. There have seen a series of demonstrations in Fayetteville since Saturday for the 37-year-old Black man.

Prominent civil rights lawyer, Benjamin Crump, and the family of Walker led a protest on Thursday and demanded justice for the victim as the crowd chanted "Jason Walker matters”.

"We got to stop this vicious cycle in America of shoot first and ask questions later when it's Black people. It's unacceptable," Crump said on Thursday night at the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

"I tell you brothers and sisters in Fayetteville, North Carolina tonight, that it is the right thing to do, that we speak up for the truth of what happened to Jason Walker, that we fight for the truth of what happened to Jason Walker," Crump said, while referring to the cases of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

Crump, known for his fight against racial injustice, represented the families Floyd, Arbery, and Taylor, whose killings sparked nationwide protests and outrage over police violence against racial minorities.

Walker’s cold-blooded killing is the latest case of white supremacist violence, police impunity, and racial inequality in the United States, which have assumed alarming proportions in recent years.

In a viral video filmed just after the shooting took place, the police officer is seen telling his colleagues that Walker jumped into the middle of the street and that he braked to avoid him.

A North Carolina judge on Thursday ruled that police body camera video from the aftermath of the incident can be released to the public.

According to Hash’s account, Walker threw himself on the vehicle, tore off a windshield wiper and used it to hit the windshield, prompting Hash to draw his weapon to protect his family.

This version of the incident, however, has been dismissed by witnesses, who claim that the police officer hit the pedestrian before stopping.

"I saw him brake, completely stop and then keep going," Elizabeth Ricks, an eyewitness, was quoted as saying by ABC station. "I saw him hit Jason... then his body was slammed into the windshield.”

Ricks said she then heard shots being fired. "I think he fired the first shot through the windshield and three more times outside the vehicle," she asserted.

According to the police, a preliminary investigation has showed Walker "ran into traffic and jumped on (the) moving vehicle" that the sheriff's deputy was driving. "The driver of the vehicle shot (Walker) and notified 911."

On Sunday, the city's police chief said an analysis of the vehicle's so-called "black box" showed that the "vehicle did not impact anything or anyone," and a windshield wiper had been torn off.

"It's important to share some of the confirmed facts of this case with the public to ensure transparency as this investigation proceeds," she said, adding that the weapon used by Hash was not his service weapon.

While the accused officer has been placed on administrative leave, he has not been arrested or charged with a crime so far, prompting people to take to the streets in protest.

Crump said the Fayetteville community was demanding answers as to why Walker was "senselessly shot and killed" by an off-duty officer.

"We have reason to believe that this was a case of 'shoot first, ask later,' a philosophy seen all too often within law enforcement," Crump said in a statement.

Police officers in the US kill an average of 1,000 people each year, mostly African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and are rarely prosecuted for their crimes

The incidents of police brutalities have assumed alarming proportions in the US in recent years. A study in October suggested that more than half of all police-involved killings in the US were underreported.

3 killed, 11 injured in Chicago

In separate incidents reported on Wednesday, at least 3 people were killed — including two 14-year-old boys — and 11 others were wounded by gunfire in Chicago.

One of the victims, Javion Ivy, was standing on the 2200 block of West Adams Street when someone shot him in the abdomen, police said.  

The other boy, James Sweezer, was on the sidewalk in the 1400 block of South 73rd Street in Englewood when someone in a passing car opened fire, according to the police.

In another incident in Englewood, a 29-year old woman was shot to death Wednesday night. She was sitting in a parked car in the 7400 block of South Vincennes Avenue when two men approached and shot at her.

In Parkway Gardens on the South Side, at least four people were wounded in a shooting. A 73-year-old man was shot in the leg and a 51-year-old woman was struck in the back, police said. Another person suffered a gunshot wound to his arm.

Later, a 46-year-old man showed up at the University of Chicago Medical Center with a gunshot wound to his leg, police said. Three people were also wounded in Little Village on the Southwest Side.


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