Darkness had fallen Sunday on the Fayetteville Police Department along Hay Street, and where Kathy Greggs was putting away a microphone, sound speakers and other paraphernalia that had been part of the gathering of about 100 people protesting the shooting death of a west Fayetteville man at the hands of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
Greggs is president and co-founder of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, and she was among those who want answers and unbridled transparency as to why Jeff Hash took the life of Jason Walker on Saturday afternoon along Bingham Drive not far from Walker’s home.
“It could be another Elizabeth City,” Greggs was saying about the days and nights to come, and echoing what activist Mario Benavente said would be more protests until there is full disclosure and nothing but the truth, and nothing else is acceptable.
“No justice!” the protesters shouted Sunday. “No peace!”
About 30 protesters were back Monday outside a Fayetteville City Council meeting at the FAST Transit Center, and again Wednesday, where the small group of 25 braved below-freezing temperatures outside City Hall to voice their concerns during an Ethics Commission hearing addressing allegations of misconduct by Police Chief Gina Hawkins within her department.
“What’s his name?” they chanted. “Jason Walker!”
Something else Greggs said Sunday before leaving the Police Department was that now nationally-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump had been contacted, too. And sure enough, Crump said in published reports this week that he is representing Walker’s family, just as he was in Elizabeth City representing the family of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by Pasquotank County deputies serving an arrest warrant on April 21, 2021.
"Because Andrew cannot make the plea for justice, it is up to us to make the plea for justice,” Crump said at Brown’s funeral on May 3 at Fountain of Life Church in Elizabeth City. “Because the dead cannot cry out for justice, we must do it for them.”
A Lumberton native, Crump hasn’t just been there for Brown’s family. He’s been there for the families of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor and more recently Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, where three men, including a father and son, were convicted of Abery’s murder.
May 30, 2020
Crump, 52, is a high-profile lawyer now lending his legal expertise to the shooting death of Walker, a 37-year-old Black man. Police say Walker was shot and killed Saturday by Hash, an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. The 38-year-old Hash, who is white, is a lieutenant in the civil division. He has been placed on administrative leave while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the shooting. No charges have been filed.
The story is making headlines locally, statewide and nationally.
Hence, we are a volatile and vulnerable city, just as we were on May 30, 2020, when riots broke out downtown following protests of Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer and left Hay Street properties damaged and the landmark and historic Market House ablaze.
It was a disturbing and ugly date in this city’s history.
And here we could be again if irresponsible words and wayward ways bring out the worst of us. May our community resolve to be one of community calm.
“You withheld the name of a murderer,” Myah Warren, 23, was chastising the police chief Monday night in that City Council public forum for withholding the name of Hash at a Sunday news conference.
And for not charging the deputy in Walker’s death.
“In the course of our investigation, because it was an off-duty deputy,” Hawkins said at her Sunday news conference, “I thought it better to bring in the SBI.”
The Cumberland County district attorney agrees with Hawkins’ decision, and Billy West says he has called on the Attorney General’s Office and the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys to assist in the investigation. And just Monday, at the request of Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, the City Council voted to bring in the Department of Justice.
Caution to the wind
“Anytime a death occurs, rumors spread,” Hawkins reminded all of us in this community in closing Sunday’s news conference.
And spread like a wildfire, they have – particularly on social media.
“I just had a male jump on my vehicle and broke my windshield,” the off-duty deputy tells a 911 dispatcher in an audiotape released by the Police Department. “I just shot him. I am a deputy sheriff … I was driving down the road, and he came flying across Bingham Drive, running, and then 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. Broke my windshield. I had my wife and my daughter in my (vehicle).”
Shaun McMillan, co-founder of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, is among protesters calling for the arrest of the off-duty deputy.
His is a soft voice of concern and a voice of calm.
“On Saturday, Jason Walker was killed,” McMillan told the council at Monday’s public forum. “We know Jeff Hash killed Jason Walker. We know Walker was unarmed and a pedestrian. We demand that Jeff Hash be arrested immediately.”
Truth is, we don’t know much more about Jan. 8, just after 2 p.m. and how the fatal shooting played out on Bingham Drive. If Walker threatened the deputy and his family. Where the deputy shot Walker. Or how many times.
We will know in time.
“Peaceful protests are welcome,” Hawkins said Sunday evening, but …. “We ask everyone to have patience.”
The wheels of justice are slow to turn, but the wheels of justice do turn. May our community resolve be one of community calm.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.