Racial equity groups say communities of color frustrated with lack of information over Walker case

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:53 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Six different racial equity advocacy groups are looking for more information into the death of Devonna Walker, who Cedar Rapids Police say was killed in a stabbing earlier in January.

Video, which TV9 received, shows somebody shouting a racial slur, specifically the “n” word. Then, as a woman looks to be walking away, Walker charges and a scuffle ensues where it appears that Walker is stabbed. No arrests have been made in the case.

The Advocates for Social Justice, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Faithful Voices for Racial Justice, Marion Alliance for Racial Equity, the Cedar Rapids NAACP, Parents Against Violence Everywhere and We Are CR are requesting officials from the city of Cedar Rapids along with Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks (D) attend a town hall to answer community member’s question about the case.

According to a letter obtained by TV9, Maybanks said he has had private conversations with members of these groups and allowed one member to attend a meeting between himself and the victim’s mother. He also said the Cedar Rapids Police Department is following up on its active investigation and it would be “highly unorthodox and potentially unethical” for him to attend a community meeting about the case.

“I do hope the coalition representatives understand that my declining to meet is not out of disrespect for the pain Devonna’s family and the community if feeling,” Maybanks wrote. “Rather is out of our duty to uphold our ethical obligation to be circumspect regarding extrajudicial statements so as not to compromise the integrity of the investigation.”

Maybanks declined a previous request to meet about the case as well for similar reasons, according to emails TV9 received. The Advocates for Social Justice sent a similar invite to Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell and Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman.

O’Donnell, who was the United States Conference of Mayors, said she spoke with Devonna’s mother as well and declined to meet until Linn County Nick Maybanks made a decision.

“I, too, wish the wheels of justice moved more swiftly,” she wrote. “As a City, we are committed to a thorough and complete investigation. I am confident the CRPD has done that and more.”

Amara Andrews, who is the Board President for the Advocates for Social Justice, said she believes there would have been an arrest and charges if a Black woman stabbed and killed a White woman. She also said the video reminded Andrews of other times Black people were killed and an arrest didn’t immediately occur.

”You can’t take your emotions out of it,” Andrews said. “It’s real, it’s raw, it’s something that happens, sadly, frequently. It’s just not always captured on video.”

She said their coalition wants to understand:

  1. Why criminal charges haven’t been filed?
  2. Does the length of the murder weapon violate conditions for an individual who has been a convicted felon?
  3. What has been the process to encourage witness statements and to protect those who have information?
  4. Why has the killer not been charged with a hate crime?

Andrews said the group also has questioned if the “Stand Your Ground” Law is being used to determine if an arrest is warranted. She said the lack of answers is creating rumors among people of color and doubt in the justice system.

“The lack of information given to the public is just leading to things spiraling out of control and emotions really getting out of control,” Andrews said.

Phillip Platz, who is the communications manager for the city of Cedar Rapids said the investigation has the full attention of the city of Cedar Rapids. He also referred us to previous statements, which said police interviewed witnesses on the scene, collected evidence, and interviewed a suspect.

Those statements also said it is not uncommon for an investigation to months until the necessary evidence is gathered to decide whether criminal charges are warranted. The Cedar Rapids Police and the County Attorney’s Office doesn’t normally give comment or grant interviews to TV9 over active investigations.