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Walker family disappointed by decision not to pursue charges

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A lawyer for the family of Jason Walker - who was shot and killed by an off-duty deputy on Jan. 8 - said Thursday they are disappointed the state will not file charges.

Allen Rogers, who represents the Walker family along with prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, said he was disappointed in the decision not to prosecute Cumberland County sheriff’s Lt. Jeffrey Hash.

Kimberly Spahos, the special prosecutor assigned to review the case, said North Carolina’s self-defense law allows the use of deadly force if Hash reasonably believed that he or another person was in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death.

Spahos is executive director of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, which was assigned to the case after the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office recused itself. She announced the decision Thursday in a letter to the State Bureau of Investigation's special agent in charge.

Spahos determined that Hash was justified in shooting Walker after Walker jumped onto Hash’s pickup, ripped the windshield wiper off and began smashing the windshield.

Rogers said the Walker family is taking the decision very hard.

"They are extremely distraught and regretful the state has decided not to prosecute," he said. 

In the letter, Spahos wrote: “When determining whether criminal charges are filed, the question is whether the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the action he took violated the law.”

Rogers said he thinks the lieutenant should have been charged.

"Traditionally, these kinds of decisions are left to a jury where there's probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and charges made,’’ he said. “And the jury is left with the question with regards (to) whether there's a reasonable doubt."

He said the family’s account of what happened that day is inconsistent with what Hash said. Spahos wrote in the letter that Walker lunged toward Hash just before the deputy pulled his pistol and fired the weapon.

"His dad said Jason was still on the vehicle when Mr. Hash started shooting,’’ Rogers said. “He said he did not lunge. They are extremely distraught, extremely disappointed and somehow hope that justice will be served."

Walker’s death sparked weeks of protests in Fayetteville. People called for justice and for charges to be filed.

Myah Warren, a social activist who participated in some of those protests, said she is “enraged” by the decision not to pursue criminal charges.

Warren said fellow activist Shaun McMillian, who also has repeatedly called for justice for Walker and his family, was out of town.

McMillian, who cofounded the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, or PACT, did not immediately return a phone message Thursday afternoon.

Mario Benavente, another local activist who also has participated in protests, said he was "incredibly disappointed."

"I feel like another part of the justice system has failed for Jason Walker's family," Benavente said. "That first failure came from the Fayetteville Police Department who failed to arrest and disarm Jeffrey Hash on the scene. And proceeded to spend the next 48 hours demonizing Jason like he was some crazed person. They found every way to criminalize Jason's activity while protecting a law enforcement officer."

Benavente said this was not just on the police, but also the prosecutors and the City Council, which he said has been devoid of action throughout the year.

Hash’s lawyer responds

Parrish Hayes Daughtry, the Dunn lawyer who represents Hash, said she met with Hash Thursday and he was relieved.

“First and foremost, Lt. Hash wants peace for his community and his family. I think that would be the overriding concern right now,” Daughtry said.

Daughtry said she believes Spahos made the right decision.

“The law clearly states that if you’re acting in that defense that you’re immune, totally, from being prosecuted in civil or criminal court,” she said. “And knowing the facts that occurred, I believe that there was an inability to take out any criminal actions against him and I believe he acted lawfully.”

Daughtry said Spahos’ four-page letter outlines that.

“It’s very important to say that Lt. Hash grieves for loss of life and for Mr. Walker’s family,” Daughtry said. “It is also equally important to say that Lt. Hash and his family are still processing and recovering from a very traumatic event.”

Too often, Daughtry said, quick investigations lead to wrongful arrests that result in trials that lead to dismissals or exonerations, and that puts defendants and their families through quite protracted expensive litigation.

“I greatly respect the time, energy and thoroughness of this investigation by the State Bureau (of Investigation) as well as the review of that by the Conference of DAs,” she said. “It is the sincere hope of Mr. Hash and myself that the community will consider the facts presented in that and the fairness of this investigation and not consider comments or statements of people outside of the facts trying to incite things for their own political gain. And that they will be able to move forward peacefully. I think Mr. Hash and his family were victims of a violent crime, and it is tragic.”

Hash was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

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.

Jason Walker, Jeffrey Hash, fatal shooting, off-duty deputy, State Bureau of Investigation, Cumberland County Sheriff's Office

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