Families of Fayetteville residents killed by police address city council

Janice Walker used to watch TV and pray for justice for families whose loved ones were aggressively killed.

“Now, as a grieving mother, I’m part of that statistic,” Walker told Fayetteville City Council members Monday night, eight months after her 37-year-old son, Jason Walker, was fatally shot by Cumberland County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeffrey Hash. .

Hash, who was off duty when the shooting occurred, told investigators he shot Walker in self-defense after Walker jumped onto the hood of Hash’s personal vehicle and began to drive. smash the windshield with a broken wiper.

The January 8 shooting took place in front of Walker’s home on Bingham Drive in Fayetteville.

A special state prosecutor who reviewed the case decided not to press charges against Hash.

Protesters said Walker was no threat to Hash, who shot the unarmed Walker four times.

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Janice Walker and the family of another person killed in a police shooting – Jada Johnson – were joined by other Fayetteville residents on Monday evening who say they have held the Fayetteville Police Department to account for several years.

Given just three minutes to address council during the public comment portion of Monday evening’s council meeting, Richard Iwanski’s voice crescendoed with emotion.

“I’m still very hurt and very grieving,” he said.

Iwanski’s granddaughter, Jada Johnson, 22, was killed July 1 at her home in the 2300 block of Colgate Drive after Johnson reported a group of men tried to break into the home.

The half-dozen calls Johnson made to the police on the night of her murder reveal that she used a series of excuses to try to get police to come to her grandfather’s house. Her grandparents said she feared an abusive ex-boyfriend had sent people to hurt her.

While officers were at the house, Johnson, who his family said feared for his life after a breakup, pulled out a handgun and put it to his head. Officials said Johnson was shot during a struggle to disarm her.

Johnson’s grandparents said she only threatened to harm herself.

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Iwanski told council members that officers reacted with “insidious behavior” when her granddaughter sought help during a mental health crisis.

He said officers violated department guidelines and that three days before Jada died, different officers came to the home for the same situation.

These officers, Iwanski said, tried to help Jada.

Jada Johnson in a photo from November 2019.

The difference on July 1, he said, was the leadership that let his granddaughter down.

He asked the council to find out what happened and hold those responsible accountable.

“My goal here is to ask you for accountability, transparency and reform,” Iwanski said.

Iwanski said he also hadn’t heard any information about Johnson’s ex-boyfriend who she feared had threatened her and her family.

Angela Tatum Malloy, a doula and owner of Momma’s Village, said Johnson was still in a postpartum phase after giving birth and more local funds should be dedicated to mental health.

Dr. Vanassia Gunter, senior coordinator of Collecting Families NC, said her organization has helped more than 40,000 mental health patients in the community who are homeless.

Mental health is also personal, Gunter said.

“It’s tough when you have a family member who wakes up in the middle of the night choking you because they always think they’re deployed… I never called the police because I I was always afraid, always afraid that he would be killed or locked up,” she said.

Gunter said she thinks the police department should have a dedicated task force that focuses on mental health.

Community activist Shaun McMillian said that since the shooting of Timothy Smith Jr. in 2018, the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Task Force, other organizations and local residents “demand local response teams in the event of a crisis on the ground for the forces of order”.

“A CRT should have been on the scene the night Jada Johnson was killed,” McMillian said. “I ask you again to make a policy change that fixes this.”

Malloy said the new city council should also consider having a police accountability review committee instead of a police advisory committee.

For Janice Walker, she wants “something to be done”.

“Do what it takes to get it done right and (we) won’t be judged on the color of our skin or our social status,” she told council members.

Writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.

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