Editor's note: This story was corrected to say Freddie Delacruz, a retired soldier and candidate for mayor, spoke Monday during the City Council's public forum.
Local activist Shaun McMillan reminded members of the Fayetteville City Council on Monday that it has been nearly 75 days since Jason Walker was fatally shot by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy in Fayetteville.
McMillan spoke during the public forum portion of the City Council meeting at the FAST Transit Center.
“It’s been 73 days since Jeffrey Hash shot and killed Jason Walker. And inexcusably, Hash remains a free man,” McMillan said remotely, via a Zoom-like call to connect with the meeting. “Thirty days ago, we quoted Dr. Martin Luther King in saying that 'justice too long delayed is justice denied.' That was 30 days ago.
“So, if at this point that has been delayed more than two months, what does that make justice? Where do we stand, and what was Jason Walker owed? The answer is, he was owed justice under the law.’’
Walker was shot and killed on Bingham Drive on Jan. 8. Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins turned the case over to the State Bureau of Investigation, which continues to look into the shooting. No charges have been filed.
McMillan said Walker will never get full justice, but he can get full accountability.
“This whole process has been demonstrably ridiculously unjust. We know that Jeffrey Hash should have been arrested at the scene of the homicide,” he said to Mayor Mitch Colvin and members of the City Council. “There was not equal justice because even though Hash was off-duty, he was not treated as a man who killed an unarmed man. He was treated as a law enforcement professional. He was protected …”
McMillan said he urged the council to move beyond condolences offered in the days immediately following the homicide. "The job’s not done," he added.
What policies could be put in place? What will the council do to create an environment that upholds transparency and accountability? McMillan asked.
“I submit that part of the reason Chief Hawkins felt empowered not to make an arrest is because this council hasn’t empowered her to,” McMillan said. “By doing things like overlooking the homicide of Joshua Oxendine. The opposite of cultural transparency and accountability is cultural corruption. I urge this council to bring independent oversight to every regular meeting until there is a citizen review board, as proposed in 2012, established and a civilian police oversight authority hired by staff."
Oxendine died while in custody of Fayetteville police in September 2019.
“Stop saying this is a ‘Can Do City’ if you’re unwilling to tackle the issues that we need that are a matter of life and death. Especially to black and brown citizens in this community," McMillan said.
There was no feedback from council members.
Freddie Delacruz also spoke during the public forum. Delacruz is a retired soldier and a candidate for mayor.
He echoed some of McMillan’s comments, saying policing in Fayetteville needs to be held accountable.
Delacruz said he had no intention of running for office until he saw what happened on May 30, 2020, when demonstrators protested police violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
In Fayetteville, police responded to reports of looting at Cross Creek Mall. Some individuals broke into the Market House and set fire to the building. Downtown businesses also were damaged.
“That pretty much gave me the reason to run for office,” he said. “The fact that police were told to stand down and no arrests were being made was not the right approach, I believe, to policing. Police officers – they take an oath to protect and defend property – and to have them stand down in situations where they are witnessing people openly breaking the law, leads to lawlessness.
“If there’s any time you want to arrest somebody, from my experiences, it’s during the act of the crime," Delacruz said. "You don’t want them to get away and commit a crime later and hurt other people down the road.”
The Police Executive Research Forum, which reviewed the Police Department’s response to the violent protests and other issues, issued a report that was released earlier this month that said the reasoning behind the decision to stand down was not communicated well within the department or to the community. It also said the decision may have limited the amount of damage and the number of injuries.
Delacruz also said there needs to be a discussion on the downtown Market House.
“There’s something that needs to be done about it,” he said of the historic structure that he says has caused a division in the city.
Member of the council did not comment after Delacruz spoke.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.co