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SEATTLE: Questions about officer-involved shooting

Letter by Robert Randle, Tacoma on Sep. 3, 2010 at 1:04 pm with 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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Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. DrWernerKlopek says:

    John T. Williams certainly had a checkered past but that was no excuse to shoot first and ask questions later. A cover up could explain why the video tape, assuming it existed, shows nothing. Cops protect their own regardless of the situation. They may be betting that constant mentioning of Williams’ history of trouble will soothe any public outcry.

  2. surething says:

    This cop will get away with it.

    I think this was VERY poorly handled.

  3. reformedliberal says:

    Encountering a police officer on the streets of downtown Seattle is arguably more dangerous than encountering an armed criminal. The criminal, at least, feels some compunction not to be observed committing a murder. The police officer, on the other hand, knows he is guaranteed to receive paid time off.

  4. The cop hating criminal procedure experts won’t be able to contain their ignorance on this one.

  5. I haven’t been to Seattle since 2007 and I intend to keep it that way! Jay walking is punishable by a ticket or a beat down. Wood carving is a capital offense punishable by a summary execution. Now Tacoma cops are following Seattle’s lead and needlessly shooting people on Sixth Avenue. I know the cop shop will tell us the shooting was justified and the man was within legal striking range. However, why were the cops within seven feet of the guy if a cop cannot react fast enough if somebody is within twenty feet. After all the citizens supposedly called in to report a person menacing with a knife. I better not buy a set of steak knives in Tacoma or Seattle. Oh, and let’s not forget to call out the SWAT team to serve a search warrant for alleged pot possession.

  6. BlaineCGarver says:

    It does not matter to me if I’m in the right or not….if I see a cop holding a gun on me, I don’t need to hear a thing. I’m going to get my hands in the air so fast, it will make your head swim. I can sort out my rights after the cop doesn’t shoot me……Geeez, get a clue people…..And yes, I think the cop was way in the wrong.

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