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Forum asks allies to speak out about Devonna Walker’s death
Prosecutors say the Jan. 2 stabbing death is a priority
CEDAR RAPIDS — Devonna Walker, a Black woman and a mother of three, was stabbed to death Jan. 2 — and friends and family gathered Sunday to ask why, nearly four weeks later, no one has been arrested for it.
Two people were taken into custody and interviewed by police after her death, but they were released.
“I don’t understand why no charges have been pressed, why no one has been prosecuted,” said Walker’s mother, LeSean Boles, who attended the forum in the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library. “Everything about this is racism, and nothing’s happening. … I want justice for my daughter.”
A video of the stabbing, which happened at about 6:45 p.m. Jan. 2 in the 2100 block of North Towne Court NE, has been circulating on social media. The video appears to show Walker arguing with a white man and woman and engaging in a fight with them before she is stabbed by the man.
Activists have been protesting regularly at the Cedar Rapids Police Department since Walker’s death, asking for an arrest to be made. Sunday a town hall event was held at the Cedar Rapids library to discuss concerns surrounding her death and how it plays, organizers said, in the larger issue of how Black people are treated in the justice system.
Boles, who attended the event but didn’t participate in the panels, said that she wants to see both the man and the woman involved in the argument arrested.
Boles said Walker was always smiling, and she was a loving mother to her three children, ages 13, 7 and 2 months.
“Just before (she died), on Christmas, she cooked. I was sick, so she did the cooking for me. She made lasagna for me,” Boles said. “I’ve missed her, and most of all the kids have missed her.”
Walker’s children are staying with Boles, who is working on gaining official custody of them.
The town hall event was hosted by a coalition of six community groups: Advocates for Social Justice, Stand in Unity, Marion Alliance for Racial Equity, Cedar Rapids NAACP Branch, Parents Against Violence Everywhere and We Are CR.
Representatives from some of the groups spoke on the panel about what is currently known about Walker’s death, and how the community can respond. A lawyer, Ann Brown, addressed general questions about how Iowa’s stand your ground laws and other legal concerns may or may not play into the case, though she acknowledged that without all the details of the investigation, many of her answers were speculative.
Police announced Jan. 13 they had finished an investigation into the case and handed it over to the Linn County Attorney’s Office, which said it would make the case a priority.
Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell and Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman were all invited to attend Sunday’s event and be part of the panels.
O’Donnell and Maybanks declined the invitations, with the mayor saying she had trust in police and prosecutors to pursue the case, and Maybanks citing ethical concerns about speaking publicly about an unfinished investigation. Both said they had reached out to Boles. Jerman was unable to attend due to conflicting obligations.
Attendees at the meeting were urged to look for ways to participate more in local government and make their voices heard. Panelists called for more community members to attend the protests being held outside the police station at 1 p.m. every Tuesday and encouraged people to attend upcoming Cedar Rapids City Council meetings to talk about the case during public comments.
The groups also said they’re planning a larger protest for Saturday, and invited everyone to follow at least one of the groups in the coalition on social media to get updates about the time and place.
“It’s been on the shoulders of Black and brown people to fight for equality and justice within systems that were created by white people and perpetuates white supremacy notions and ideals. And it’s been on us to lead this fight for justice for Devonna. So, when we’re talking about how to move forward, I encourage you, if you are in a position of an ally, that you gather your friends and you show up,” Angelina Ramirez, vice president of the Advocates for Social Justice.
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