01 September 2010

The Strange Case of John T. Williams

Once again, I'm not making any judgments. We'll let the facts get sorted out as more information comes to light and more witnesses come forward. Here's what we know:

John T. Williams, a local man, was shot either three or four times by SPD officer Ian Birk. Williams, a woodcarver, was walking down a sidewalk carrying a piece of wood and a three-inch whittling knife when Birk pulled over, ordered him three times to drop the knife, and immediately shot him from about ten feet away. Williams died on the scene.

According to Birk, Williams refused to drop the weapon, then lunged at him.

According to witnesses, Williams might have begun to turn, but did not approach the officer, and did not have a chance to take any action before he was shot.

According to the SPD... well, their first account was that Williams attacked Birk with an illegal weapon (the knife). Now, they've said that the knife was legal to carry, and they're not sure whether Williams approached Birk or not.

c&p from King5.com:

Police said the officer ordered Williams to drop the knife. Williams allegedly moved toward the officer, still holding the knife. That's when the officer shot Williams.

"The man refused the officer's orders and the officer fired, we believe, four rounds," said Seattle Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz at a press conference Tuesday.

That's not the way it happened according to Thomas, an office worker who asked we not give his last name.

"When I heard that story, I was really upset because it was just total counter to what I witnessed," said Thomas. He says Williams was walking away from the officer.

"The cop then fired three shots," said Thomas. "One had to go in the side and the others had to go in the guy's back 'cause the guy never did turn around. He never approached the cop. Never saw his hands. Never saw a knife. He may have looked back at the cop, but he didn't do anything threatening."

Witness Gregory Reese says he did see Williams turn, but he didn't think Williams was a threat to the officer.

"He just turned around and the cop shot him. That's all I saw. It was really quick," said Reese.

As I said - I don't have the full story (and doubt I'm going to get it), so I'm not definitively saying anything. Yes, Williams was a felon and an alcoholic, and the officer doesn't have any previous situations such as this on his record, so far as I can tell. The situation just seems kind of odd.

Other sources:

Chief Diaz: "I Have a Lot More Questions Than Answers" About Fatal Shooting
- SeattleCrime.com

SPD: Not known whether fatal shooting victim lunged at officer
- KOMO News.com

Seattle police have questions about fatal shooting by officer
- Seattle Times

All y'all have a great morning... today's moving day for me. My apartment feels kind of empty at the moment.

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