Letters to the Editor

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SEATTLE: Questions about officer-involved shooting

Letter by Robert Randle, Tacoma on Sep. 3, 2010 at 1:04 pm | 6 Comments »
September 3, 2010 1:04 pm

A 50-year-old Native American man, John T. Williams, who was deaf in one ear was shot and killed by Seattle Police Officer Ian D. Birk on Aug. 30 at the corner of Howell Street and Boren Avenue near Pike Place Park in Seattle.

The fatal incident occurred when Birk, from his patrol car, spotted Williams displaying a small knife that he was using to cut into a block of wood. Although Birk stopped his car and activated emergency lights, the audio recorded his verbal commands to Williams but interestingly the video inside the squad car did not show what really happened.

The question which could be asked is: How did Williams come to Birk’s attention in the first place? And as for the 3-inch knife that was used to whittle wood carvings and totems, it meets the legal requirement, according to the Seattle Municipal Code.

Isn’t it just possible that when Williams approached Birk that he was doing so because he couldn’t hear the officer’s commands and wanted to let the officer know that he was deaf in one ear instead of wanting to harm him? Ironically, as part of training, Seattle police officers go through potentially lethal scenarios, and one of the possible scenarios is approaching a deaf individual.

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