The 4-year-old girl who died in Akron after a shooting into a large crowd Friday night has a tragic connection to Jayland Walker, who was killed in a police shooting June 27.
The girl was the niece of Walker’s fiancee, Jaymeisha Beasley, according to a relative.
Walker’s world was upended May 28 when Beasley, 27, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Interstate 71 north of Cincinnati while traveling with her family.
Beasley’s 4-year-old niece Journei Tolbert died Friday from a gunshot wound to her head. A second victim, Johnny L. Gaiter, 40, died later at an Akron hospital.
Demetrius Travis Sr., who said he was related to Walker and Journei, said his mother received a call after the shooting Friday night.
“They were at the hospital and they called my mother,” he said. “I had been seeing on Facebook that a little one had been shot.”
Travis said the family of his cousin Journei had just completed a vigil for an 18-year-old man shot a year before. After a balloon release, the crowd was dispersing, he said. The vigil was in the 700 block of Princeton Street, police said.
Police don’t believe the shootings are related to the protests.
“I’m hearing that somebody shot into the crowd,” Travis said.
Travis said he was told Journei died before she could be treated at the hospital.
“I don’t think she made it to the ambulance,” he said.
Akron mayor, police chief, Black pastor call for 48-hour pause in Jayland Walker protests
Akron’s mayor, police chief and Black pastors on Friday night asked people protesting Walker’s shooting death by Akron police to stand down from their protests for at least 48 hours following the girl’s death.
No arrests had been made by Saturday afternoon, police said.
Alexis Jerels, who lives on the street where the shooting took place, said her daughter and Journei would sometimes play together.
“Ever since I moved there, I’ve seen seven shootings,” Jerels said. “I’m just tired of this, I’m sick and frustrated.”
She said there was chaos after the shooting.
“They were screaming and running and people looking for their kids,” she said. “…There is too much going on. This place is going straight to hell — everywhere.”
The city officials and pastors made a call late Friday night for people to deescalate the Jayland Walker protests.
Mayor Dan Horrigan, Police Chief Steve Mylett, the Rev. Lorenzo Glenn and others spoke outside Akron Children’s Hospital, where the 4-year-old had died earlier in the evening.
“I talked to the mom and grandmother. There’s a heartbreak in the city,” Horrigan said. “And talking about the level of tension that is out there. A number of pastors talked about deescalation and looking for nonviolent justice and peace. People have a right to protest, and they’ve shown up at my house. I don’t like it but they have a right to be there.”
The mayor said he and the others decided to come to the hospital to put a message out that “they have a right to protest, but we need to drop the temperature a little bit in the community, because it’s hurting.”
Horrigan said he is “willing to listen to anybody who’s got those thoughts on how to move the community forward. I know people are frustrated. Now, tensions are really high, on a shooting on a little girl who won’t see her fifth birthday.”
Mayor of Akron: All must deescalate in Jayland Walker shooting
The protesters and the city have to talk at some point, Horrigan said.
”What are those changes that we want to see? Some we won’t agree on, I can guarantee it. … But you know, we can find some common ground, and that’s what I’m asking to do,” he said.
All sides need to deescalate, the mayor said.
On Saturday, the Akron chapter of the NAACP released a list of demands for the city and police department, which included the appointment of a special prosecutor.
“I admit, we haven’t been at our best the first couple of days,” Horrigan said Friday night. “The chief has addressed that with a number of things. … Let’s stand down a little bit and start to listen to each other. Because when the voices are so high and you’re yelling at each other, nobody can hear each other. That’s what we need to do, to start hearing each other and listen.”
“I’m praying now that everyone will settle,” said Glenn, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Akron. “It’s out of control now, and we need peace for the city.”
‘We must come together,’ Akron pastor says after Jayland Walker shooting
“We all collectively, together, make it a city,” Glenn said. “Say what you will about what you believe, we must come together. So, we’re asking for 48 hours. We just let this thing move through the process, because that’s what it’s going to do. And we’ll trust God for the outcome. … He is the righteous judge. Find a church tomorrow where you can pray. Find a church on Sunday where you can pray, for fellowship and some comfort in a dark hour.”
Akron police started getting calls about 9:15 p.m. from Princeton Street about shots being fired, Mylett said.
“When they got to the scene, they found a 4-year-old little girl with severe head trauma,” Mylett said. “We were able to get her to Children’s Hospital quickly but she succumbed to her injuries.”
Multiple shots fired at Akron family celebration
“It was multiple shots fired. We found numerous casings,” he said. “The investigation is just beginning.”
The shooting “had nothing to do with any protests. It had nothing to do with any violence,” he said.
Mylett said he met with the child’s mother earlier in the night inside the hospital.
“You can imagine. A 4-year-old. A baby,” Mylett said, shaking his head. “It’s got to stop. It’s got to stop.”
The girl turned 4 just last month.
“We need to start healing,” he said, and spoke about protests in the city. “The mayor made it clear, we will meet with anybody anywhere, anytime. We’re doing the best that we can to provide a safe environment here for people to protest, but we need that relationship with the protesters. I will come to the table and I will hear what they have to say. If it’s mine to deliver, I will deliver it.”
Police officers secured the area around Akron Children’s Hospital during the outdoor n conference involving Horrigan, Mylett, Glenn and the other officials.
Akron pastor cites ‘Bad emotions,’ ‘bad actions’
“I’m not going to ask one side to calm down if I’m not going to ask all to calm down,” Glenn said. “And some of this is bad emotions and it’s leading to bad actions, and everybody’s got to stop.
“There’s a baby here that won’t survive,” he added. “There’s a family that’s grieving that baby. We are still reeling from other major events that are happening, and I’m going to say Jayland Walker’s name.
“But it takes not just community but police and everyone — not one side, however many sides you want to make this — everybody has to do it. Because if you ask one to and the other one doesn’t, what you have is a massacre, and we can’t have that here.
“This is our city. These are our people. We love them. We care about them, we’re praying. But after we pray, we’ve got action to do. It’s up to all of us.”