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Akron police officials and mayor reproach councilwoman for "irresponsible" remark on Walker killing

Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media

An Akron city councilwoman has expressed regret after Akron’s police union issued a vote of “no confidence” in reference to a comment she made at a recent council meeting.

During a committee meeting Monday, At-Large Councilwoman Linda Omobien said Akron police “murdered” Jayland Walker last summer. While eight officers killed Walker when he reportedly turned toward them during a car and foot chase, the incident is still under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and no charges have been filed.

“This comment is reckless, irresponsible, inflammatory, defaming, and could unlawfully influence the Grand Jury who will hear the case soon,” Clay Cozart, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7, said in a statement. “Ms. Omobien is a councilwoman at-large and is supposed to represent all the citizens of Akron. For an elected official to behave in this manner is unacceptable and the citizens of Akron should hold her accountable.”

In addition to the no-confidence vote from the FOP, Police Chief Steve Mylett called Omobien’s remarks “irresponsible” and “reprehensible.” Mayor Dan Horrigan said as the city tries to heal community and police relations, Omobien’s comment “undermines that important work and creates further challenges to progress.”

Omobien called Mylett to apologize and retract her statement and offered to meet with officers directly, Mylett added.

At the time of the comment, Omobien was speaking in favor of Imokhai Okolo, a candidate to Akron’s civilian oversight board. Some councilmembers took issue with a social media post in which Okolo referred to police as “pigs.”

Omobien and other councilmembers who supported Okolo said his statement was made out of anger and frustration.

“We articulated to you that his views when he did whatever on his Facebook, were probably the views of many African-Americans in this city at the time Jayland Walker was murdered by the police,” Omobien said.

Council voted 8 to 4 on a slate of candidates, including Okolo, missing the nine votes needed for a supermajority. Feb. 27, the day of the vote, was the city’s deadline to seat the board. The four councilmembers who voted against the candidates said they took issue with just Okolo.

Council will either take another vote on the current slate or swap out Okolo’s name with someone else at its next regularly scheduled meeting Monday.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.