Posts tagged: John T. Williams
SEATTLE (AP) — The Justice Department today launched a formal civil rights investigation of the Seattle Police Department following the fatal shooting of a homeless woodcarver and other incidents of force used against minority suspects.
Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and the assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, Thomas E. Perez, held a conference call Thursday morning to discuss the investigation. Durkan previously said her office was reviewing the Seattle Police Department's actions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 other community groups called for the inquiry after a Seattle officer shot and killed Native American woodcarver John T. Williams after he crossed a street downtown. The officer who shot Williams, Ian Birk, resigned from the force but was not charged criminally.
Other incidents captured on surveillance or police-cruiser video include officers using racial slurs and stomping on a prone Latino man; an officer kicking a non-resisting black youth in a convenience store; and officers tackling and kicking a black man who showed up in a police evidence room to pick up belongings after he was mistakenly released from jail.
ACLU of Washington spokesman Doug Honig welcomed the announcement.
“We think the DOJ has a lot of experience and expertise in dealing with situations like this around the country,” he said. “Our hope is that they can make recommendations that will help the city of Seattle curtail the use of excessive force in the future.”
SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors said Wednesday they won't criminally charge a Seattle police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding, homeless woodcarver during a brief encounter on a street corner in a case that has prompted angry protests and calls for increased scrutiny of police tactics.
Officer Ian Birk, who had been on paid leave since the Aug. 30 shooting, resigned hours after King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's announcement.
Relatives and other supporters of John T. Williams (pictured) had asked Satterberg to charge Birk, 27, with manslaughter, saying Williams didn't pose a threat to the officer.
The officer said he fired only after Williams failed to drop the three-inch knife despite being repeatedly ordered to do so.
At a news conference, Satterberg said the shooting was a “good faith mistake, however tragic” and no charges would be filed.
Washington law protects police officers from a homicide charge unless there’s evidence of malice or bad faith, Satterberg said.
“Unlike the rest of us they do not have the option of walking away,” Satterberg said.
But the police department's Firearms Review Board separately released findings Wednesday that describe the shooting as “unjustified and outside of policy, tactics and training.”
SEATTLE (AP) — A coroner's inquest jury examining a Seattle police officer's fatal shooting of a woodcarver last summer returned its findings Thursday, with just one of its eight members saying the carver posed any threat.
Four jurors said carver John T. Williams, 50, did not pose a threat and three others said they didn't know.
The conclusions reached Thursday after two days of deliberations are only findings of fact. In considering 13 questions, the jury was not asked to decide whether Officer Ian Birk (pictured with his wife and lawyer) committed any wrongdoing
Evidence from the inquest and the jury's answers will be forwarded to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to determine whether Birk should be charged in the shooting. Satterberg said he expects to make a decision by mid-February.
Spokane County is one of few jurisdictions that does not conduct jurors inquests into police shootings.
Birk, 27, confronted Williams on Aug. 30 as he crossed a street holding a piece of wood and the knife with a 3-inch blade. Evidence at the inquest showed it took about four seconds from the time Birk first told him to drop the knife to the first gunshot.
The jurors split on whether Williams had time to drop his knife before Birk opened fire, with four saying he did not, one saying he did and the rest answering “unknown.”
Four jurors found that Birk believed Williams posed an “imminent threat of serious physical harm” to him when Williams was shot. Four jurors answered “unknown.”
The jury watched surveillance video taken from Birk's patrol car, which showed him getting out of the car to pursue Williams, who had crossed the street in front of the cruiser. Off camera, Birk quickly shouted three times for Williams to drop the knife, then fired five shots.
Birk testified that Williams had a “very stern, very serious, very confrontational look on his face.” Williams still had the knife out and was in a “confrontational posture” when he opened fire, the officer said.
An autopsy found that Williams' blood-alcohol level was at 0.18 percent, above the 0.08 percent level at which a driver is considered legally drunk.
The police department's Firearms Review Board is expected to convene and rule on whether the shooting was justified. Birk has been on paid leave since the shooting.
The inquest came amid growing criticism that Seattle police officers have used excessive force in several recent incidents, particularly in dealings with minorities. Some community groups have called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the department.