By Maura Mulholland
On July second, Jayland Walker, a twenty-five-year-old African American man in Akron, Ohio, was stopped by police after a routine traffic violation. After he was pulled over, he fled from police, who claimed he fired on them as he ran. In return, the officers fired ninety shots at his back, citing him as a “deadly threat”. Of the over sixty wounds counted on Walker by the coroner, it is reportedly difficult to tell which ones were caused by the bullets entering versus exiting his body.
Walker’s horrifying death reinforces multiple troubling patterns in our society. Since the 2020 slaying of George Floyd, public focus has rested on the violence that Black men experience at the hands of police forces across the nation. Though protests swept the country, administrative change is slower to come than social outrage, and the repeated, aggressive and often fatal encounters between police and Black citizens in the years that followed the Floyd protests have proven that. Murders such as Walker’s, which happened in an allegedly more enlightened world than the one Floyd died in, call into question the efficacy of social movements when police reform has been so difficult to come by, and even the quality of those reforms themselves. After all, the entirety of Walker’s death and its circumstances were captured on police body cameras, which have only become standard procedure in recent years. However, those cameras did not prevent his murder.
Though this incident embodies the racism intrinsic in the justice system, it also speaks to the problem of gun violence in our nation. On this Fourth of July weekend, there were over a dozen mass shootings in the United States. Gun violence is at an all-time high, and with weekly recurrences of crimes that would, a few years ago, be unconscionable, it is difficult to truly absorb the horror of what occurred. From instances of extreme brutality directed at one person to the impersonal spray of bullets involved in a mass shooting, guns and the social threat they pose are being thrust to the forefront of public awareness in increasingly heinous instances of homicide.