By JOE GORMAN
An unattended car off the road on the city’s southwest side early Saturday led to a city police officer shooting a man to death.
The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation will be the lead agency handling the case, police Chief Eric Merkel said at a news conference in city council chambers Saturday.
Merkel would not name the officer involved and did not want to confirm the identity of the man killed in the 1:50 a.m. shooting because the man was carrying more than one identification, Merkel said.
Vindicator broadcast partner 21 WFMJ TV reported that sources told the station the man killed is 24-year-old Taemarr Walker, who has a long criminal record and was a suspect in a 2009 homicide in which he also was wounded.
Merkel said all evidence from the shooting was taken by BCI. He said his own department will conduct an internal-affairs investigation to determine if departmental procedures for using deadly force were followed. The officer involved is on administrative leave, which is standard during an investigation when force is used, Merkel said.
The Trumbull County Coroner’s office was to conduct an autopsy this morning, said Law Director Gregory Hicks.
“It’s very early in the investigation, and all evidence has been turned over to BCI,” Merkel said. Representatives of BCI could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Police were called to Palmyra and Risher roads Southwest for a report of a one-car accident in which a red Grand Am was off the side of the road, and air bags had been deployed.
According to the 911 tape of the call, when the officer arrived, he found the car empty and radioed in the license plate number for a records check and a tow.
A few minutes later the officer asked for backup because another car showed up with two people inside, one of them with a gun.
“Put your hands up!” the officer says on the tape. “Risher and Palmyra, subject with a gun!”
The dispatcher then tells officers that assistance is needed and the officer can be heard yelling using his car number, “33, step ‘em up!”
The dispatcher then says shots were fired and another car breaks in and that officer asks, “Mike if you can, what’s the subject’s position?”
“Thirty-three, I need a squad.”
“Thirty-three, are you ok?” the officer asks.
“I’m code four,” he answered, the radio signal for all is well, according to the recording.
Walker has a criminal record dating back to at least 2007, according to records from Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. He has convictions in 2008 for possession of crack cocaine and in 2009 for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had four cases this year, but the grand jury declined to indict him on three of those. The fourth, a failure to comply charge from May 12, is still pending, according to court records.
Just before the first of the year, Walker was arrested in Detroit and brought back to Warren where he faced two separate counts of aggravated robbery over a robbery of the same person within two weeks, once in Warren and once in Niles.
In 2009, Walker was a suspect in the shooting death of 26-year-old Ahamze King, who was killed in a shootout in which Walker was wounded in the stomach. A few months before that, Walker was shot after he was ambushed by three men, according to reports.
In the King case, he was charged with felonious assault, but that was eventually reduced to the firearm charge for which he was sentenced.
Merkel said investigators do not know if there is a connection between the car involved in the accident and the one that Walker pulled up in, or with the other person in the car with Walker.
The chief said he had no information when asked if the victim had leveled a gun at the officer before shots were fired. He noted that he spoke to the officer before the press conference, and said he does not know how long the officer will remain on leave.
The last officer involved in a shooting in the Mahoning Valley took place July 3 in Boardman, when a man was shot to death after barricading himself inside a Cook Avenue apartment. In that case, police said they saw a muzzle flash from inside the apartment and two officers fired one shot each and the man was killed.