By Ed Runyan
Representatives from the Greater Warren-Youngstown Urban League and other civil-rights organizations called on the community to “exercise patience” and await the outcome of investigations by local and state officials before assuming too much about the police shooting death of Taemarr Walker early Saturday on Risher Road Southwest.
“As it relates to the investigation, we will await the results of the [Warren Police Department’s] internal investigation, as well as the [Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation] on following the Use of Force Policy and other details of concern,” Urban League President Thomas Conley said at a Wednesday morning news conference at the Urban League offices.
Walker, 24, who is black, was killed by Patrolman Mike Krafcik, who is white, at 1:50 a.m. while Krafcik was alone, investigating a call regarding an abandoned and crashed car.
Krafcik told a dispatcher that a car arrived at the accident scene with two people inside, one of whom had a gun. Krafcik asked for backup, then could be heard ordering the two to put their hands up. A short time later, he asked for an ambulance.
Walker died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds, and his death has been ruled a homicide.
Police and BCI, which is handling the investigation, have released little information on what happened, such as whether Walker pointed a weapon at Krafcik. Krafcik’s cruiser is not equipped with a video- and audio-recording system.
Conley said he and other community leaders met with Warren Mayor Doug Franklin early this week, and the mayor was “open and transparent” regarding the actions the city has taken as a result of the killing, such as contacting BCI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“He assured us after this traffic incident everything has been properly handled up till now,” Conley said.
Because members of the community have been unhappy in the past with the way city officials have handled certain matters that involved black people, it’s important that organizations like his closely follow this case, Conley said.
He urged the community to allow the state and local investigations to “take its proper course,” saying all of the fact-gathering must take place “so the process can come to a conclusion.”
Annette McCoy, president of the Trumbull County NAACP, and Pastor Phillip Shealey, president of the Trumbull County Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, agreed that nobody really knows at this point whether the officer conducted himself properly.
“It becomes a thing where we are trusting in the system and waiting for the outcome,” Pastor Shealey said.
Conley and other members of the panel said they feel a greater level of trust in the system that will be reviewing the shooting now than they did in years past, partly because of Warren Police Department policy changes required by the Justice Department and because of police department leadership changes.
The police department and Justice Department agreed to policy changes after a finding that the department had violated the law with regard to use of force against citizens.
“I think there’s been some improvement, but I think a lot of the decisions and resolutions in the past [have] still left questions in our community, questions that were never answered or resolved,” said McCoy.
She said there is “still a little bit of distrust — and this is my own personal opinion — but I think working together to try to resolve the issues as a group will actually be a more-positive outcome than working against the system.”
Members of the ministerial alliance took a position against the promotion of a lieutenant in the police department to captain after he admitted to the alliance that he called two men a derogatory term for a black person while off duty in 2009.
The lieutenant, Joe Marhulik, eventually was promoted to captain, but he has since retired.
Pastor Shealey encouraged friends and family of Taemarr Walker to seek grief counseling at any of the churches in the ministerial alliance. The phone number to call is 330-394-0922.