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Protesters march in downtown Fayetteville after man shot, killed by off-duty deputy

Police Chief Gina Hawkins and Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West say the death of 37-year-old Jason Walker on Saturday is being investigated by the SBI.

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About 100 protesters, many of them angry and upset, marched through downtown Fayetteville on Sunday demanding justice and an arrest after a man was shot and killed by an off-duty Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy.

The crowd marched from the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse to the Fayetteville Police Department calling for an arrest in the death of 37-year-old Jason Walker, who was shot and killed Saturday along Bingham Drive in west Fayetteville.

The Fayetteville Police Department said in a release that Walker “ran into traffic and jumped on a moving vehicle’’ when the shooting happened just after 2 p.m. along the busy highway.

Walker was pronounced dead at the scene, the Police Department said.

The name of the deputy has not been released. 

The State Bureau of Investigation has taken over the investigation, the Police Department said Sunday.

“This could happen to you!” Kathy Greggs, a co-founder and president of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, told protesters outside the Police Department. “This could happen to your family! Yes, to you!”

Greggs was joined by members of Walker’s family, a witness to the shooting and community activists demanding that the off-duty deputy be arrested.

 Police Chief Gina Hawkins and Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West held a news conference Sunday to say the SBI would be conducting the investigation.

“We offer first our condolences” to Walker’s family, Hawkins said.

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

West also offered his condolences and said he contacted the N.C. Attorney General’s Office and the Conference of N.C District Attorneys to assist in the case along with SBI Special Agent Mitch Deaver.

“We had an off-duty deputy” involved, West said, “and their recommendation was to avoid any conflict. I and my senior staff agree.”

‘No justice! No peace!’ 

But outside the Police Department earlier, protesters were visibly angry and demanding justice for Walker. 

“Jason was my closest relative,” Antonio Gomez, 37, told the crowd, and later said Walker was his second cousin. “We went to school together. We went to church together. They said he jumped on a moving car. He had just gotten two jobs. He was happy. That man murdered my cousin in cold blood.”

Another cousin, identified as Barry McLoy, said he loved Walker.

“We need justice,” he said. “A sheriff is not a sheriff,” he referenced Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright “or he would have locked him up. But he didn’t do that.”

Protesters responded in unison.

“No justice!” they said. “No peace.”

“No justice!” they said again. “No peace.”

Elizabeth Ricks, 26, said she was a witness to the shooting and administered first aid as Walker laid on the pavement waiting for EMS to arrive.

“I cared for him,” she told the crowd. “He was not acting crazy. I made sure he got some words of hope. I wished I could have saved him. We saw what we saw. My kids saw what they saw. He was just trying to go home.”

Police said Walker lived on the 1600 block of Bingham Drive.

While initial reports said Walker jumped on the off-duty deputy’s truck, Hawkins said a review of the vehicle’s black box disputes any impact by the truck.

"No one was hit,” Hawkins said.

 The deputy was interviewed by police after the shooting, Hawkins said. She said she did not know the caliber of weapon used or where Walker was hit when he was shot.  

 Activists weigh in 

 Others joining the protest were community activists Mario Benavente and Myah Warren, the voice of downtown protests at the Market House in the spring of 2020 after the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

 “For what reason did you have to shoot this man?” Warren, 23, screamed out. “Jason Walker could have been my dad or your family member.”

 Warren has filed as a candidate for the Fayetteville City Council.

“They decided to cover it up,” Benavente, 31, told the protesters. “He called not emergency services,” Benavente said, “but his supervisor to cover his ass.”

Benavente has filed as a candidate for the Fayetteville City Council.

 As protesters took turns at the megaphone, Webb Mealy used chalk to write a message at the entrance of the Police Department that read “Justice For Jason Walker.” He was joined later by small children writing chalk messages of their own in memory of Walker.

 Benavente told the protesters they would return until justice is served.

“We shouldn’t be here right now,” said Shaun McMillan, a co-founder of Fayetteville PACT. “When we saw the initial report, we asked, ‘Why is the shooter not identified.’ Only the victim is identified.”

Greggs later said that Fayetteville PACT plans to contact the Department of Justice and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who has represented or been a voice for George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by deputies serving an arrest warrant on April 21, 2021, in Elizabeth City.

 Police chief calls for calm 

Hawkins called on anyone who may have witnessed the shooting to contact the SBI at 800-334-3000, Fayetteville police detective C. Crews at 910-751-1046 or Crimestoppers at 910-483-TIPS (8477). 

“We would like to hear from anyone who saw the incident,” she said. “Anytime a death occurs, rumors spread.”

Peaceful protests are welcome, Hawkins said. But “we ask everyone to have patience.” 

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

Fayetteville, Police Department, Jason Walker, shooting, off-duty deputy, protest

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