What Fayetteville families who lost loved ones to officer shootings are asking city officials

  • In US
  • 2022-08-11 09:01:41Z
  • By The Fayetteville Observer
Demonstrators march through downtown Fayetteville during a Justice for Jason Walker demonstration on Thursday, Jan.
Demonstrators march through downtown Fayetteville during a Justice for Jason Walker demonstration on Thursday, Jan.  

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

"Now, as a grieving mother, I am part of that statistic," Walker told Fayetteville City Council members on Monday night, eight months after her 37-year-old son Jason Walker was shot and killed by Cumberland County Sheriff's Lt. Jeffrey Hash.

Hash, who was off-duty when the shooting happened, told investigators he shot Walker in self-defense after Walker jumped onto the Hood of Hash's personal vehicle and began smashing the windshield with a broken wiper.

The Jan. 8 shooting was across the street from Walker's home on Bingham Drive in Fayetteville.

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

Protestors have said that Walker was not a threat to Hash, who shot the unarmed Walker four times.

More: 'I feel unprotected': Fayetteville protesters react to latest in Jason Walker case

Janice Walker, and the family of another person killed in a police shooting - Jada Johnson - were joined by other Fayetteville residents Monday night who say they've asked for accountability within the Fayetteville Police Department for several years.

Given only three minutes to address the council during the public comment portion of Monday night'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 his home in the 2300 block of Colgate Drive after Johnson reported a group of men tried to break into the house.

The half dozen calls made to police by Johnson on the night of her killing reveal she used a series of excuses to try to get officers to come to her grandfather's home. Her grandparents said she feared an abusive ex-boyfriend had sent people to harm her.

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

Johnson's grandparents said she only threatened to hurt herself.

More: 'She was not in her right mind': Frantic 911 calls released in Jada Johnson shooting

Iwanski told council members that officers responded with "insidious behavior" when his granddaughter requested help at a time of a mental health crisis.

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

Those officers, Iwanski said, tried to help Jada.

Jada Johnson in a November 2019 photo.
Jada Johnson in a November 2019 photo.  

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

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

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

Iwanski said he's also not heard any information about Johnson's ex-boyfriend who she feared 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 that more local funding should go toward mental health.

Dr. Vanassia Gunter, a lead 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 hard when you have a family member who wakes up in the middle of the night choking you because he still thinks he's deployed …  I have never called the police because I was always afraid to, always afraid that he will either get killed or locked up," she said.

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

Community activist Shaun McMillian said that since the 2018 shooting of Timothy Smith Jr., the grassroots Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Task Force, other organizations and local residents "have been demanding local law enforcement field crisis response teams."

"A CRT should have been on site the night Jada Johnson was killed," McMillian said. "I again call on you to make a policy change that corrects this."

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

For Janice Walker, she wants "something to be done."

"Do the right thing so that this can be made right and (we) won't be judged by the color of our skin or by our social status," she told council members.

Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at rriley@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3528.

More: The Fayetteville Observer Forum: Readers react to prosecutor's decision in Jason Walker shooting

More: New details released in Fayetteville police shooting death of Jada Johnson

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Families of Fayetteville residents killed by police address city council


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