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Seattle cop killed partially deaf man over closed knife, attorney insists

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Thursday, December 23, 2010 10:51 EDT
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Recently released footage from a police cruiser’s dashboard camera shows the events leading up to the fatal shooting of a partially deaf man by a Seattle police officer.

John T. Williams, a Native American wood carver who was partially deaf, was killed on August 30th after walking past Officer Ian Birk, 27, on the street with a knife in his hand.

The dashboard camera footage shows Williams slowly crossing the street in front of Officer Birk’s police cruiser. Birk then approached Williams and repeatedly told him to “put the knife down.” Seconds later, Birk shot him four times.

The shooting occurred off camera, but can be clearly heard. The officer opened fire after only a few seconds.

Birk said he shot Williams because he refused commands to drop the weapon, putting Birk in fear for his life. Williams’ friends and supporters argued that he may not have even heard the officer’s commands.

King County District Judge Arthur Chapman ordered the dashboard camera video to be released after the Williams family, The Seattle Times and KING-TV requested it be made public.

Williams, who came from a family of wood carvers, suffered from diabetes, deafness, seizures, mental illness, and drug addiction. He had been arrested over 100 times.

Photos released released to the public show the knife was folded in a closed position when it was recovered minutes after the shooting.

“Remember the very first thing that we saw was the picture of the knife wide open that the police department put out,” Tim Ford, attorney for the Williams family, told KOMO News. “And we know now that, as we’ve shown here, that the knife was closed.”

The Police Department’s Firearms Review Board found that the shooting was not justified.

Birk was ordered to surrender his gun and badge. An inquest into Williams’ shooting death is set to begin on Jan. 10.

 
 
 
 
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