Was Jayland Walker’s autopsy handled differently than others?

Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 5:22 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Was Jayland Walker’s autopsy and the investigation into how he died handled differently than other cases?

Investigator Hannah Catlett gave some context and perspective using her experience reporting on other cases.

19 investigates has context and perspective on the details released in Jayland Walker's autopsy today. For example, why didn't the ME do a gun residue test on Walker? And-- the medical examiner said Walker arrived at the ME's office in handcuffs-- in recent weeks, people have asked whether that is normal.

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Friday, July 15, 2022

Starting with what’s different, or abnormal in this high-profile case:

The medical examiner doesn’t typically hold press conferences to release details of an autopsy.

However, there was so much interest in Walker’s case, that the ME’s office said they wanted to get accurate information to the public, quickly.

By law, reporters have the right to inspect preliminary autopsy records.

The 19 News investigates team has been through the process several times, most recently after the murder of the former Cleveland Mayor’s grandson was murder.

Usually, going into a records review, we don’t know what we’re about to see.

In Walker’s case, since the press conference preceded the opportunity to inspect autopsy records, knew the details about Walker’s wounds.

Typically, until a case is adjudicated, meaning it has gone through the investigative process and court proceedings, official autopsy reports are not public record.

In Walker’s case, Summit County gave reporters access to the finalized autopsy.

Our reporter couldn’t bring in a cell phones, or even a notepad while reading the report.

That’s common, though, and actually part of the state law when viewing preliminary autopsy records.

The handcuffs found on Walker when he arrived at the medical examiner’s office were also addressed.

Summit County’s Medical Examiner, Dr. Lisa Kohler, explained that’s not abnormal, in fact the doctors are prepared for it.

“This is something that happens often enough that we do keep a handcuff key at the office to assist us in these situations,” the Medical Examiner said.

Another thing that has been asked in recent weeks is whether a gunshot residue test could confirm Walker indeed fired at officers first the night of his death.

APD showed us video of a flash of light officers say was from the shot Walker fired out of his car.

They also found a shell casing at the scene.

However, doctors didn’t do a gunshot residue test on Walker, which was also explained Friday.

“Gunshot residue testing can detect specific particles related to the discharge of a firearm but the results of that testing is not conclusive as to whether the person did or did not fire a weapon,” Dr. Lisa Kohler said. “These particles are very fine and they are easily dislodged from the skin by acts of simply putting your hands into your pockets or through the action of sweating. A positive test does not mean that the person tested fired a weapon. And, a negative test does not mean that the person tested did not fire a weapon or did not handled or was not in the vicinity of a recently fired weapon.”

Kohler said the FBI stopped doing gunshot residue tests for that reason nearly 20 years ago.

19 Investigates will leave you with this: It’s not uncommon to still have questions about a shooting even after seeing an autopsy report.

For example, we covered a case in east Cleveland where a fleeing suspect was shot by police multiple times.

The autopsy report showed one of the shots hit him in the back of the head, but just like in Walker’s case, we don’t know which wound came first.

That makes it impossible to say whether officers shot him as he was running, or as Dr. Kohler said, the entrance wounds to Walker’s back could have come as he was falling or rolling.

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