About 80 people gathered Wednesday night at the Food Lion on Bingham Drive to protest the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Jason Walker by an off-duty deputy over the weekend.
“Say his name!” organizer Shaun McMillan blared from a hand-held megaphone.
“Jason Walker!” the protesters chanted in reply.
“Say his name!” McMillan repeated again and again.
“Jason Walker!” they answered over and over.
“No justice!” McMillan blared.
“No peace!” the group of protesters chanted into the raw cold night as they left the grocery store parking lot and marched to the site of the shooting at the corner of Shenandoah Drive.
Walker was a 37-year-old Black man. The Fayetteville Police Department has identified the shooter as Jeffrey Hash, a 38-year-old white man who has been with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office since 2005.
Hash has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the shooting. No charges have been filed.
Family members, who did not want to be identified by their full name, joined in the demonstration and spoke about their admiration for Walker.
“He always told us to keep pushing,” said Dani, who said she was Walker’s niece. “Always doing better for his son. When he came back to Fayetteville, that’s what he wanted to do. Anyone who knows Jason knows how sweet a man he was. … I’m so thankful so many people came out and cared.”
The Food Lion closed early because of the scheduled protest.
McMillan is one of the leaders of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, or PACT, a longtime police reform group.
“We believe that when good people stay solemn about justice,” he said, “it’s easily covered up and forgotten. This is needed for the community to come out and give justice to the family.”
Some protesters said they do not believe the Police Department has done its due diligence to make an arrest.
In his 911 call, Hash told the dispatcher that Walker jumped on his truck, ripped off the windshield wipers and broke his windshield while his wife and child were inside the vehicle.
He said he was protecting his family.
During a news conference Sunday, Police Chief Gina Hawkins said the black box computer on Hash’s truck did not record “any impact with any person or thing.’’
Late Wednesday afternoon, City Council members Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, Shakeyla Ingram and Yvonne Kinston released a statement offering their condolences to the Walker family. They also commended Hawkins and the Police Department for reaching out to the SBI to take the lead in the investigation “to ensure full transparency is being met.’’
“We want to strongly reflect and ensure to our citizens that we are responding to their concerns on these tragic events and our hearts ache with you as we are not only leaders of this city, but neighbors that live in this city with you,’’ the three councilwomen said in the statement.
The City Council on Monday adopted a resolution asking the Department of Justice to take part in the investigation. City Manager Doug Hewett sent a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday.
“We have full faith that the SBI will conduct a thorough investigation into Mr. Walker’s death,’’ the letter states. “However, members of City Council believe strongly that your department’s involvement or assistance with any investigation will help our citizens trust that the investigation will be both thorough and transparent.’’
The letter also states: “We also request and welcome a review of the City’s response and policies by the Department of Justice. While I have the utmost confidence in our Police Department, I understand a review of this tragic incident may help our community during this difficult time as we await the results of the independent investigation.’’
On Wednesday night, some of the protesters and family members placed white candles, flowers and multi-colored balloons under a light pole at the entrance to Shenandoah and Beaver Creek subdivision while the Trey Songz song “How Many More Times” played.
Some solemn-looking eyes could be seen above the face masks of those who marched. Some eyes looked teary as Walker was remembered.
“Honestly, I’m tired of seeing people getting murdered by trigger-happy cops,” social activist Sarah Pitkin, 42, of Sanford, said before the march got underway. “This is getting out of control. This is ridiculous. They need to stop getting away with stuff.”
She came with her 17-year-old daughter, Harley Harris, and her Presa Canario puppy, Helvetica.
Loretta C. Daniels, 37, of Fayetteville, also attended.
“Jason was my close, dear, dear friend,” she said after arriving in the Food Lion parking lot. “He’s a man of integrity. He’s loving, he’s kind, he’s a protector and supportive.”
Daniels said she had known Walker for about four years.
She said she came to “defend justice and also praying it will shift the atmosphere in our community to bring about more unity and awareness.”
Protesters displayed signs that read “Justice for Jason!!!” “Lock Up Hash,” “Arrest Jeff Hash … Justice 4 Jason” and “Four Shots in the Back.”
The group assembled by a light pole on Shenandoah Drive for prayer and a period of silence. Afterward, the Rev. David Camps of Agape Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville said: “It was a good moment of silence to think about what needs to be done.
“Love can conquer everything. Showing the family that we love them. Right now, the family needs support and to know that we love them. That’s for our children. We don’t want this to be representative of our community.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.