Death in Akron

The city of Akron, Ohio, has been walking on eggshells since the police shooting of one Jayland Walker, a young black man. Walker had led police on a car chase, fired a handgun from the vehicle during the chase, bailed from the vehicle wearing a ski mask, and continued his flight on foot. Officers unsuccessfully attempted to tase him, after which they opened fire when it appeared he might be attempting to pull a gun. Eight officers fired about 90 rounds, and Walker was struck 46 times.

Although it has been played up as a gratuitous, racist killing of a black man by the police, it was no such thing. Walker was wearing a ski mask—at night—so the police had no idea of his race. They knew he was armed because he had fired a shot from the window of his vehicle; but not actually seeing a gun in his hand when he bailed from the vehicle, they attempted a less-than-lethal tasing. It was only after he had given the impression that he might be drawing a weapon that they opened fire; it turned out, however, that he had actually left the handgun he had fired in the vehicle.

But what about the overkill—dude was hit 46 times! Well, the officers were in a vehicle chase during which the fugitive fired a shot from his vehicle—so the officers were amped up on adrenaline, aware of the danger that they could possibly be shot. During situations like this, officers experience what is known as tunnel vision and auditory exclusion; they focus on and react to a perceived immediate threat to the exclusion of all else. And if eight officers experience this all at once, well, a suspect just might end up getting shot a bunch of times. Hell, if I had pulled Walker’s shenanigans, the same thing would have happened to me as well—and since I’m more than 40 years older than Walker and much heavier and slower, I probably would have taken even more bullets than he did.

Curious to see how much black lives really matter in Akron, I checked the Akron PD homicide crime stats, but they were devoid of any racial identifiers. I then decided to use the National Gun Violence Memorial data as a proxy, a technique pioneered by Ak Nation News, a YouTube channel I highly recommend. A prominent element of every Memorial entry is a photo—if available—of the deceased, which can serve as a racial identifier. The entries also include links to news accounts of the shootings, which may contain photos of the suspects. If no suspects are known at the time, the victim’s name can be searched at later dates to see whether there have been any new developments in the case.

I ran a search for Akron victims, scrolled down until I came across the victims from 2021, and tallied all the victims from that year. They came out to a total of 38, and since the population of Akron approaches 200,000, that comes out to about 19 gun fatalities per every 100,000 residents. Of the victims, 31 were black, six were white, and one was a homeless man for whom no photo had been posted. Of the 14 suspects identifiable by race, every single one was black. So we know for a fact that at least 37 percent of the shootings were done by black suspects, even though the black population of Akron is around 30 percent. But since the overwhelming majority of all homicides are intra-racial, and given that the black victims in Akron made up over 81 percent of the total, the percentage of shootings done by black offenders most certainly has to be much, much higher that 37 percent.

Particularly telling are the stats for the six white victims: Although the race of the shooters of two of those victims is unknown, four of them were killed by black shooters. That means that black shooters were responsible for no less (and perhaps even more) than a whopping 67 percent of white deaths by firearms. (The racially unidentifiable homeless man was also killed by a black shooter.) Given the anomaly of one racial group committing the majority of another racial group’s fatal shootings, it would not be unreasonable to suppose that the group in question would also be capable of committing a much higher than expected percentage of fatal shootings among themselves. The science of statistics involves  inferring proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample. The representative sample in this case—14 racially identifiable suspects—was 100 percent black.

The ongoing sideshow in Akron over the police shooting of Jayland Walker is misdirection away from a much, much more serious problem.

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