Seattle Pays $1.5M to Family of Victim of Police Shooting

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver, died after being shot 4 times by Officer Ian Birk on August 30, 2010. Dashcam video is shown below.

Birk resigned Feb. 16 after the release of a scathing report by the Firearms Review Board report that found, among other problems, that Birk didn’t identify himself as a police officer as he approached Williams from behind. Williams was crossing the intersection while carving on a piece of wood with a legal knife (shown here in a police photo). The knife was folded shut when found by officers.

Williams, who was deaf in one ear, was shot in the side, not facing the officer.

Officer Birk was not criminally charged in the shooting.

H/T: Daily Kos, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Seattle Pi.

72 thoughts on “Seattle Pays $1.5M to Family of Victim of Police Shooting”

  1. “…who crouches confrontationally towards a uniformed police officer…”

    Yeah, nothing like crouching to frighten a police officer. Lucky the guy didn’t lay down with his hands behind his back – they would have called the swat team.

  2. Not understanding the need to shoot a 50 yr old man with a 3 in. blade carving wood. If the officer felt threatened he should have backed away from the threat. Unlike a firearm, a knife has very short range….

  3. I know in some jurisdictions (such as my own, Maine) it’s illegal to “shoot to maim” even by a cop. If you take out the gun, you best mean to kill with it.

    That being said, I saw this video, and all I could think was what was going through that cops mind? “I hate my job and I wanna kill just one person and get away with it before I quit”? Seriously to say that this was a justified act is like saying Osama Bin Laden should have been the next Pope. The man was obviously no threat to anyone, he wasn’t crouching “confrontationally towards a uniformed police officer who has emerged from a marked police car with its emergency equipment activated”. He was WALKING AWAY. If he was crouching towards the officer, then how the hell did the cop manage to shoot him four times in the BACK AND SIDE?! He made NO EFFORT to run, he did NOTHING ILLEGAL! This was quite possibly the WORST abuse of the uniform I have ever seen in my life.

  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSvD5SM_uI4

    if none of you will do something about shit like this, it will keep going on, and it will reach the point where your refusal to act will make you more complicit than the cops (i would argue that it already has, actually)

    so, do something or shut the fuck up, you little cracker babies.

  5. Wasn’t there a South Park where the kids go hunting and are allowed to shoot rare animals as long as they shout “It’s coming right for us!” After all, if it’s coming right at you it’s self defense. Apparently if you run right at it, it’s the same solution.

  6. IF he actually felt the need to shoot, why not immobilize the “threat”…shot to the leg maybe?

  7. Puzzling must be a cop…blue code of honor my ass….this was a murder

  8. The end of the (above) story, as Paul Harvey used to say:

    Russia’s Parliament rejected more substantive oversight. Proposals included bans on entering homes without warrants or beating women with rubber batons at street protests. Russian lawmakers discussed the second item, but eventually dismissed it as discriminatory against men.

    Other changes in the law are cosmetic, including renaming the force “police” from the Soviet-era “militia.” The former officers in Colony No. 13 were particularly skeptical that the name change would make much of a difference.

    “Before we were the militia; now we’re the police,” scoffed Ruslan A. Aslanov, a former officer from the Ural Mountain town of Chelyabinsk, who said that he was in prison for rupturing a suspect’s spleen while making an arrest. “Nothing changed, really.”

  9. My meager observations are these:

    1. I see no indication there were innocent people around to be injured by the “man with a knife.”

    2. The man was not flailing the knife around, acting in a menacing manner. He was carving something. That would appear to bear some level of inquiry by the officer, to detemine the frame of mind of the pedestrian.

    3. It was the officer who initiated the contact; accelerated the pace of which the encounter played out. As the man appears to be walking in the opposite direction of the patrol car, it was the officer who made the decision to get close enough, to put himself in lethal range of a knife.

    As Frank pointed out, the Review Board is cops. If you can’t even get any equivocation from fellow officers you probably screwed up big time.

    “Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, who authored the report, said Birk’s actions were ‘among the most egregious failings that I have seen.'”

    I don’t see how any fair observer could disagree with that.

  10. $1.5 million sounds like a low number for this “murder” of a citizen by a police officer. What video was the guy from Police One looking at? It must have been a different one from the one I watched. Sad!

  11. “Like incompetent doctors, lawyers and judges they are most easily identified by their own. Instead of protecting the bad apples they need to point them out & demand better.” (frank)

    I’m in complete agreement

  12. A man openly carrying a knife
    It’s not clear in the video,

    who crouches confrontationally towards a uniformed police officer
    Not seen at all, pure delusion.

    emerged from a marked police car with its emergency equipment activated is a clear threat to the public welfare,
    The Cop was a threat to the public welfare and should of been stopped.

    The officer acted not only without malice and in good faith
    Requires further evidence not at hand.

  13. Didn’t know that the motto of the Seattle police is “Shoot first and ask questions later” or maybe it’s “Shoot them all and let God sort it all out”.

    I might not have charged him but I sure in the hell would have fired him….If your afraid to do this job find something else safer to do…

  14. The firearms review board report – made up entirely of LEOs – has some very stark conclusions. If you cannot even get any equivocation from fellow officers you probably screwed up big time.

    I try to be sympathetic to police, they have a shitty job that requires them to deal with a lot of shitty people, sometimes in dangerous situations. But there has always been a history of abuses by some percentage of them that taints the work they all do. Like incompetent doctors, lawyers and judges they are most easily identified by their own. Instead of protecting the bad apples they need to point them out & demand better.

  15. This case was commented on in police blogs like PoliceOne:

    Unreal. I saw this video when it first occurred, and have stood firmly behind Officer Birk from the word go. Although the video does not show the shooting itself, the verbal commands are clear, concise and firm. A man openly carrying a knife, who crouches confrontationally towards a uniformed police officer who has emerged from a marked police car with its emergency equipment activated is a clear threat to the public welfare, and must be stopped. The officer acted not only without malice and in good faith, but also in agreement with the use of force continuum and inside the the requirements of Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Conner. As an instructor and an officer, I can only pray this decision, and the many recent similar decisions by administrators and litigators, will not cause I or any other officer to hesitate to take decisive action if and when the need arises. Shame on the city – and best of luck to Officer Birk.

    Emphasis mine.

Comments are closed.