North Carolina authorities are looking into the killing of a 37-year-old Black man who was shot Saturday by a white off-duty deputy as demands for justice mount.
Cumberland County Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Hash shot Jason Walker on Saturday, authorities said, in a situation that has left local law enforcement agencies requesting the public’s help for information and the public demanding transparency amid few details.
Hash has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis W. Wright said in a statement Monday. Hash, who has been with the office since 2005 and who is assigned as a lieutenant in the civil section, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Video circulating across social media depicts the aftermath of the shooting, with Hash on his cellphone as Walker’s body lies in the road with bystanders trying to help.
In a 911 call, Hash tells the dispatcher that a man ran toward his truck.
“I stopped so I wouldn’t hit him, and he jumped on my car and started screaming, pulled my windshield wipers off and started beating my windshield and broke my windshield.”
In both recordings, Hash utters the word “hostile” while on the phone. The video shows a shirtless man interrupt Hash and tell him to not say that word as sirens blast in the background.
The shirtless man in the video tells responding officers that Walker has been shot and that the situation is a “murder scene.”
One officer walks over and kneels next to Walker’s body, and the other asks onlookers what happened.
“I didn’t see it, we heard it,” the shirtless man tells the questioning officer in the video. “I heard four gunshots and came outside.”
An unidentified woman leans over Walker’s body, seemingly checking his pulse and covering his torso with a white towel as blood pools near his head.
Hash tells a responding officer that Walker ran across the road, so he stopped his red truck.
Hash told a responding officer and the dispatcher that his wife and child were in the vehicle.
Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins said at a Sunday news conference that the black box computer in Hash’s truck, which logs speed, braking and impact, didn’t record any impact with a person.
“The only witness available to us now tells us the exact opposite [of an impact],” she said. “Investigators noted that a windshield wiper was torn off and the middle portion was used to break the windshield of a truck in several places.”
Hawkins said that no shots went through the windshield and that there were no vehicle marks on Walker’s body. The gun Hash used was not his service weapon, she said.
Hawkins didn’t confirm how many times and where Walker was shot.
Protests were held Sunday afternoon, CBS17 reported. Demonstrators disputed the initial account given by police that said Walker ran into moving traffic and jumped on Hash’s truck, The Associated Press reported.
Elizabeth Ricks, a demonstrator, told a crowd gathered Sunday that Walker was crossing the street to get to his home when he was struck by the truck and then was shot.
“I did not see anyone in distress. The man was just walking home,” she told the news outlet.
Ricks didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
At the request of Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West, the case has been assigned to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, an independent prosecutorial agency with statewide jurisdiction, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, he said at a Sunday news conference.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the case.
“This is an ongoing investigation and no further information is available at this time,” the agency said in a Monday statement. “At the conclusion of the investigation, the SBI will provide its complete case file to the Conference of District Attorneys who has been requested by District Attorney Billy West to review the case.”
The agency requested that any witnesses with information contact its Southeastern District office.
Hawkins said she decided early on it would be best for the agency to get involved.
Technology and witness accounts will be helpful in understanding the circumstances that led to Walker’s death, she said.
“The documentation of the black box is crucial,” she said. “The review of the vehicle is crucial to say, ‘Did this happen?’ So not depending on solely a statement is crucial.”
The Walker family has retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
“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 Tuesday. “We look to the North Carolina SBI for a swift and transparent investigation so that we can get justice for Jason and his loved ones.”