A 37-year-old Black man was shot and killed in the street outside of his home in North Carolina by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy over the weekend in an incident that has sparked protests in the town of Fayetteville amid swirling claims about what led to the deadly confrontation.
The Fayetteville Observer reported that around 2:15 p.m. on Jan. 8, Jason Walker lost his life outside of his Bingham Drive home after an encounter in the roadway with a pickup-driving off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
A statement from the Fayetteville Police Department initially alleged that Walker “ran into traffic and jumped on a moving vehicle” before Deputy Jeffrey Hash shot him. After the shooting, Hash called 911 to report the incident.
Witnesses say the deputy did not move to help save the man’s life after he was shot, but rather called his higher-ups in the sheriff’s department.
Elizabeth Ricks got out of her vehicle to try and save Walker by applying pressure to his wounds. Ricks said instead of trying to help, the deputy called the sheriff’s office.
The following day Ricks spoke to a crowd at a Fayetteville rally in support of Walker, where she told them she witnessed Walker attempting to cross the street, presumably to get to his home, before he was hit by the pickup truck, after which the deputy shot him.
The News & Observer newspaper quoted the trauma nurse as saying of Walker: “I did not see anyone in distress. The man was just walking home.”
“It breaks my heart he didn’t survive, and I’m trying to cope with that as well,” she said at a march on Sunday in protest of Walker’s death. “I don’t want to take away from Jason or the injustice, and I’m not going to be silent.”
Reportedly, two people who claimed to be witnesses said on social media that they saw the deputy hit Walker with his pickup truck as he was crossing the street and then shoot him.
Video of the shooting was posted to social media almost four hours later, seemingly starting right after the incident.
What can be discerned from the video is that a man in a red pickup truck is on the phone, while two women and a different man are trying to help a man lying on the ground.
“I don’t know where the entry point is he won’t tell me where he shot him,” a woman can be heard saying.
“I’m trying to protect my daughter and my wife,” Deputy Hash says on the phone to someone. “People are hostile right now.”
As sirens blaze louder and louder, one of the witnesses runs over to him and says, the video records, “Nobody is hostile. Don’t you (expletive) say that. Nobody is hostile.”
When two FPD officers arrived on the scene, they tried to help Walker, noticing that his pulse was faint. The cops asked if anyone saw what happened and collected statements.
A preliminary investigation revealed that Hash’s shot was not fired through the windshield and that its wiper was torn off. The report noted that the metal portion of the wiper was used to break the windshield of the truck in multiple spots.
At a news conference on Sunday, Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins clarified rumors about the incident.
One thing she noted was that the pickup truck had a “black box” that would have registered if the vehicle struck “any person or thing.” She also said that there was only one eyewitness, who has told law enforcement that Walker was not hit by the truck.
Since the incident, the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation has been brought on to review Hash’s conduct. Though the FBI has been notified, the agency was not tapped to join the investigation.
However, the FBI Public Affairs Specialist, Shelley Lynch shared with ABC 11, “We are aware of the shooting death investigation in Fayetteville and are in regular contact with local and state authorities. If, in the course of the North Carolina SBI investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate.”
On Jan. 10, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office released a statement saying that Hash has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Hash has served in the county’s law enforcement branch since 2005 and is now a lieutenant in the civil section of the department.
Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West announced on Sunday that his office is recusing itself from the investigation to avoid appearance of a conflict of interest. The probe will be handled by the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.
On behalf of the sheriff’s office, Lieutenant Patrice Bogertey, the Public Information Officer, offered remarks to the family, saying, “Our sincere condolences go out to Jason Walker’s family.”
The family has said to the press that they do not believe what has been reported about their loved one’s death.
“I don’t believe he threw himself on top of a truck,” Walker’s cousin stated. “I believe he wanted to live. I just want justice for my cousin because it’s not adding up.”
Walker is survived by a son.