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Lawyer: 'We’re going to represent Jason’s family and get to the truth.'

Prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump demands accountability in the death of Jason Walker.

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Prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump let it be known from the start of his message Thursday night that the circumstances behind Jason Walker’s death at the hands of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy were not going to be soon forgotten.

This is a different time, he said.

Crump held a news conference and rally at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Deep Creek Road. 

He also said deeper into his message that “we will never get justice for Jason Walker, but we can get accountability.”

“I’m looking at the face of Jason Walker’s family. I see his brothers, Marlowe and Lonell, I see his mother, Janice, and his father, Anthony. I see his aunt and uncle on the front row. They seem so heartbroken and lonely,” Crump said.

“So before we say anything, before we do anything, Fayetteville, North Carolina, I thank Rev. Hooker for letting us be in his cathedral tonight. First thing I want to do is let Jason Walker’s family know they are not alone,” he said.

Those who were able to get inside the church stood and applauded. Seating was limited because of COVID concerns. 

“Jason Walker matters!” Crump then started with the chant, shaking his right fist in the air as he repeated it over and over.

Those inside the church - where the 37-year-old Walker grew up with family and relatives - joined in unison.

“But by the grace of God,” Crump said with fervent emotion, “that could be your loved one. That could be your brother. That could be your son. Your father. I’m so grateful to be at the front line fighting for justice with one of the best lawyers I’ve ever had the honor to work with, your native son and friend, Allen Rogers.”

Crump, a Lumberton native, then told those in the church that the two of them were part of the team that would be representing the family in court. Allen is a Fayetteville lawyer and civil rights activist.

Crump has represented a number of African-American families whose loved one was killed by white law enforcement officers. They have included Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, with Crump demanding a national conversation about unequal justice in America.

Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, and one of Floyd’s nephews were at the church to offer support to the Walker family.

“I know this. It’s always about fighting in two courts,” Crump told the approximately 80 people inside the church as well as those who stood outside during the rally. “First you’ve got to fight in the court of public opinion. And if we win there, then maybe, just maybe, we get to fight in a court of law. We had to do it for Ahmaud Arbery, we had to do it for so many others that they would have swept their life under the rug as if they didn’t exist.”

Walker was shot and killed Saturday on Bingham Drive by an off-duty deputy. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office on Monday identified the deputy as Lt. Jeffery Hash. Hash has been placed on administrative leave. No charges have been filed.

The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating. Walker’s death has led to several protests this week by people demanding justice and an arrest in the case.

Hash told a 911 dispatcher that Walker pulled off the windshield wipers on his vehicle and began beating the windshield before eventually breaking it. He said his wife and daughter were in the vehicle with him and felt he had to protect them.

Crump questioned that defense in a forceful manner, saying those circumstances defied logic.

“We’re going to represent Jason’s family,” he said, “and get to the truth.”

“I understand he was a sworn law enforcement officer,” Crump said of Hash. “That meant he was a trained professional. He was supposed to be trained to protect and serve life, not to take life. He was supposed to be trained to de-escalate situations, not escalate situations. And so what was it about that training that didn’t apply on that particular day? Why he would not try to de-escalate a situation (rather than) first using deadly force. These are questions that have to be answered.”

Members of the Walker family also spoke during the rally.

His mother, Janice Walker, thanked those in attendance, saying she appreciated the prayers.

Anthony Walker, Jason’s father, also said he was grateful to those who came out.

“I just don’t know what to say,” he said. “I can hardly talk about it. But I want to thank you.”

Jason’s brother, Lonell Johnson, said the support means a lot to his family.

“It’s tough. I was looking at a picture that he posted,” Johnson said, “and you always think you have more time. You always think, there’s always another conversation. … Anybody who knew Jason, knew it didn't make any sense. … I think we’ll keep fighting until we get justice.”

Another brother, Marlowe Walker, said he last spoke with Jason Walker the night before he was killed.

“The last thing he said was, ‘I love you.’,” Marlowe Walker said. “And that’s how my brother was. He showed you that he loved you. By doing. That’s how he was. He helped out veterans. He helped out family. He loved gardening, fishing, landscaping, working on computers. He loved music. When it came to Christian, he bent over backwards making sure Christian was taken care of.”

Christian is Jason Walker’s 14-year-old son.

“We have to stop this vicious cycle in America,” Crump said, “shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to black people. It’s unacceptable."

He said to applause, "If you can make federal laws to protect a bird - a bald eagle - you can make federal laws to protect people of color."

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Ben Crump, Jason Walker, off-duty deputy, shooting, Fayetteville

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