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City Council asks Department of Justice to join in shooting investigation

Protesters criticize the Police Department’s handling of Saturday’s shooting death of Jason Walker by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy

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The Fayetteville City Council on Monday night adopted a resolution asking the Department of Justice to take part in the investigation of the weekend shooting death of a Fayetteville man by an off-duty deputy.

Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin called for the resolution that passed 9-1 on an evening when about 30 protesters assembled outside the meeting at the FAST Transit Center, where they called for justice in the death of 37-year-old Jason Walker.

Walker was shot and killed Saturday afternoon along Bingham Drive in west Fayetteville.

“I have already been in contact with the FBI,” Police Chief Gina Hawkins told Banks-McLaughlin and the council. “They are going to be assessing it. The Department of Justice is a part of the FBI, and the FBI is a part of the assessment.”

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office on Monday identified the off-duty deputy as Jeffrey Hash. He is a lieutenant with the civil division and has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2005.  Hash has been placed on administrative leave with pay, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

He has not been charged in the shooting.

Hawkins said at a news conference Sunday that she has deferred the criminal investigation to the State Bureau of Investigation.

“In the course of our investigation, because it was an off-duty deputy,” Hawkins said, “I thought it better to bring in the SBI.”

District Attorney Billy West said Sunday that his office has turned over the case to the N.C. Attorney General’s Office and the Conference of the N.C. District Attorneys to assist the SBI with the investigation to avoid any “appearance of a conflict of interest.”

Banks-McLaughlin was insistent about the DOJ’s involvement.

“I want them to look into the investigation,” she told Mayor Mitch Colvin, Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen and council members D.J. Haire, Larry Wright, Johnny Dawkins, Chris Davis, Shakeyla Ingram, Antonio Jones and Yvonne Kinston. Dawkins voted against the resolution.

Outside, about 30 protesters assembled and awaited an opportunity to address the council during a public forum. Several talked about how the Police Department has handled Walker’s death.

“You withheld the name of a murderer,” Myah Warren, 23, told Hawkins. “You failed your community and you’ve got to go.”

Warren also addressed the council. 

“This is a re-election year,” said Warren, who was part of protests at the Market House in the spring of 2020 after the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. “We’re going to vote you out. We’re going to make the city a better place. All we ask is for you to stand up for the community. Who is protecting the streets and the community?”

Warren has filed to run for the City Council.

“Here we are again with a deputy killing an unarmed black man,” Angela Malloy said. “The current police system operation without oversight is doomed. The officers provided protection for Hash. This City Council needs to have the chief explain that day.” 

Shaun McMillan, co-founder of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce,  called for the immediate arrest of the off-duty deputy.  

“On Saturday, Jason Walker was killed,” McMillan told the council. “We know Jeff Hash killed Jason Walker. We know Walker was unarmed and a pedestrian. We demand that Jeff Hash be arrested immediately.”

He urged Councilman Chris Davis to reach out to Walker’s family because Davis represents District 6 where Walker lived.

“Reach out to the family,” McMillan said. “Stand for the family. Denounce the actions of the Fayetteville Police Department. It’s under your control.”

McMillan also had a message for City Manager Doug Hewett. 

“And city manager,” McMillan said, “we are looking at you, too.”

Protesters cheered Warren, Malloy and McMillan.

“No justice,” they cried out. “No Peace.”

Robert Walls told the council that if the off-duty deputy’s actions merit charges, he should be held accountable.

“But if Mr. Walker was Asian, white or Hispanic,” he asked, “would we be having  these conversations?”

Other business

In other action, the council voted to approve a sewer lift station upgrade at the Fayetteville Regional Airport; a labor contract to rebuild a Black & Decker substation; municipal certificates with the N.C. Department of Transportation for speed limit revisions along Cedar Creek Road between Grove Street and Interstate 95; and a resolution supporting Phase 2 of the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Fayetteville to Raleigh Passenger Rail feasibility study for the eastern corridor. It also voted to adopt June 19, aka Juneteenth, as a city holiday.

Protesters remained outside as council members adjourned and left the building, with some crowding around the mayor as he left.

Dawkins, at his request, was escorted out by a police officer.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.   

Fayetteville, City Council, Department of Justice, shooting death, officer-involved shooting

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