The death of a black man shot by a white police officer in confusing circumstances is causing a stir in Fayetteville, in the southeastern United States, where relatives of the victim called a demonstration for Thursday night.
Renowned attorney Ben Crump, who has defended numerous victims of police brutality, and the family of Jason Walker have scheduled a "march for justice" for 8:00 p.m. local time (01:00 GMT) in this town in North Carolina.
Small groups of residents have marched several times this week in Fayetteville to demand the arrest of Officer Jeffrey Hash in this case.
On Saturday afternoon, the police officer, employed by the city since 2005, was not on duty. He was driving his car with his wife and daughter when he passed Jason Walker, an unarmed 37-year-old man crossing the street near his parents’ home.
Moments later, he opened fire on Walker, who quickly succumbed to his injuries.
What happened in between is the subject of different versions. In an amateur video filmed just after the tragedy and posted online, the police officer explains to colleagues who arrived at the scene that Walker threw himself at his car in the middle of the street and that he slammed on the brakes to avoid it.
According to Hash, the 30-year-old man then ripped the windshield wiper off the car and used it to hit the windshield, forcing him to draw his gun to protect his family.
But witnesses say the police officer hit the pedestrian before stopping. "I saw him suddenly brake, stop and start again"Elizabeth Ricks told ABC. "I saw him hit Jason (…) and his body landed on the windshield. And then I heard shots. I think he fired the first shot through the windshield and three more times out of the vehicle.", he added.
According to police, the black box of Jeffrey Hash’s vehicle did not record any crashes and Jason Walker’s body showed no evidence of impacts other than bullets.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave, but not arrested or charged at this stage.
The investigations were entrusted to state officials.
"We have reason to believe this is a case of ‘shoot first, ask questions later’, a philosophy seen all too often among law enforcement."Crump said in a statement.
American police kill an average of a thousand people a year, with an overrepresentation of African-Americans among the victims.
Yet officers are rarely prosecuted, even though the major anti-racism protests in the summer of 2020 have started to make a difference in the courts.