Short update: tho i cannot attest to Johnny's behavior on the day of the incident, i contacted the chief to explain what i knew of Johnny, his deafness, and my experience with him having known him for six years. i figured it was the least i could do.
from a Seattle Times article: "
One witness who contacted The Seattle Times has questioned the department's version of events and said the man may not have even realized the officer was trying to get his attention before shots rang out.
Amber Maurina, 28, said she was driving home Monday afternoon from a doctor's appointment and was stopped at a red light at Boren and Howell. She said she was facing north on Boren and saw the officer stop his patrol car, which was facing south on Boren, and get out.
Maurina said a tall, scruffy-looking man was standing with his back to her. She said she never saw the man's hands but thought he might be urinating or fumbling around in a fanny pack. Maurina said she watched the officer approach the man and saw him mouthing something to the man, who did not appear to respond.
"His body stance did not look threatening at all," she said of the man. "I could only see the gentleman's back, and he didn't look aggressive at all. He didn't even look up at the officer."
The officer approached the man, but was still "at least two car-lengths" away, Maurina said, when she heard the officer say, "Hey, hey, hey," followed by gunshots.
"I watched him kind of slowly, sort of gracefully and elegantly, fall to the ground," Maurina said of the man. "From what I saw, it did not look right."
Diaz said Tuesday that police are asking that other witnesses come forward."
Story Published: Sep 1, 2010 at 2:22 PM PDT
Story Updated: Sep 1, 2010 at 2:22 PM PDT
John T. Williams is seen in this photo.
The man fatally shot in confrontation with a police officer Monday afternoon after he refused to follow police orders was deaf in his left ear, the man's brothers said Wednesday.
John T. Williams, 50, was shot about 4:15 p.m. at Howell Street and Boren Avenue after police say Officer Ian D. Birk' yelled three times for him to drop a knife and Williams did not.
Birk, 27, stopped his patrol car and activated his emergency lights after investigators said he saw Williams working with the knife on a board. Police say Williams, standing about nine feet away, refused the officer's orders in the confrontation that lasted about a minute.
Birk fired the four rounds from his service weapon and Williams died at the scene. The officer was not armed with a Taser.
Video from Birk's patrol car did not show the shooting, but recorded audio from the microphone the officer wore, investigators said. Police Chief John Diaz said investigators were looking for additional video that may have been taken in the area showing the fatal shooting.
The chief also said he has "a lot more questions than answers" about the officer-involved shooting -- the third in Seattle this year.
"Every situations is unique and this one is going to be investigated as any officer-involved shooting would," Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. "Any other questions that remain, we will continue to seek answers."
Asked about Williams' condition, Whitcomb said the question of hearing impairment "is pertinent and will be reviewed."
Police did not elaborate, and it is not clear if officers were aware of a hearing issue.
Williams lost hearing in his left ear eight years ago after an ear infection, his brothers said Wednesday. He caught the infection after sleeping outside.
Court documents for a May 2009 indecent exposure case -- a felony for which Williams pleaded guilty -- say he was a transient.
Rick Williams, his older brother and Eric Williams, his younger brother, said he also wore headphones early Monday when he left Victor Steinbrueck Park, near the Pike Place Market. For years, the brothers carved small totem poles at the park.
The siblings do not know if Williams had his headphones at the time of the shooting, but believe he had difficulty understanding the officer's command.
Williams also had difficulties with alcohol. Rick Williams said that after another of their brothers died, Williams "just snapped" one day and threw a man through a plate- glass window. He spent time at Western State Hospital, a mental hospital.
"They gave him medications they shouldn't have," Rick Williams said. "They pumped him full of pills and he would hear voices in his head until the end of his days."
The time at Western State and the voices he heard hurt Williams for years, his older brother said.
"If you look at the carvings he made a few years back and the ones he did later, you would never think they were from him," Rick Williams said.
Family said Williams middle initial stood for Timothy and Thomas. In some court documents it was listed as Trouble -- a nickname his brother said Williams earned on the street.
At a Tuesday news briefing, Deputy Seattle Police Chief Nick Metz said Williams was known to several officers. Court documents show Williams had several legal troubles.
"In the past 20 years he has 30 such convictions, including public indecency (5 convictions); lewd conduct, disorderly conduct and indecent exposure," King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carol Spoor wrote in 2009 court documents.
A photo of the knife recovered by police show the blade is 3-inches -- a knife that is legal to carry in Seattle.
Seattle Municipal Code states that it's unlawful for a person knowingly to "carry concealed or unconcealed on his or her person any dangerous knife, or carry concealed on his or her person any deadly weapon other than a firearm ...."
The code states "a dangerous knife means any fixed-blade knife and any other knife having a blade more than three and one-half inches (3 1/2") in length," though there are exceptions.
Any blade that could cause a lethal injury would be considered a deadly weapon, and the 3-inch knife Williams had was definitely capable of causing a lethal injury, Diaz said Tuesday.
"I don't think any one of us would feel comfortable having somebody come up to us with an open blade," Diaz said.
Some witnesses have said they didn't think the officer needed to use lethal force.
As part of training, Seattle police officers go through potentially lethal scenarios simulated at a department training facility in Tukwila. Video scenarios are played on a big screen, and change based on how officers use a modified Glock duty weapon tied to the computer simulator.
One of the possible scenarios is approaching a deaf individual. Police have not elaborated on Birk's training, but said the officer, a two-year veteran, has not been involved in any other shootings.
Williams' grandfather came to Seattle in the 1920s and carved pieces displayed at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront. Williams, who also sold carvings to the shop, was one of 11 children -- seven boys and four girls -- all who learned to carve at age 5 or 6, his older brother said.
"He looked out for people," said Rick Williams, 49. "He made sure they had food and what they needed. … He was my teacher and my friend."
Several people stopped by Steinbrueck Park on Wednesday to give condolences to Williams' brothers and his nephew, Paul Williams. In the morning, two people brought flowers.
Williams was a seventh-generation carver, family said. Family said he lived at 1811 Eastlake, a building run by the Downtown Emergency Service Center that provides supportive housing for 75 formerly homeless men and women living with chronic alcohol addiction.
Williams battled alcohol. But people who looked past that "could see all his talent," his older brother said.
He would get serious about carving, Rick Williams said. He would record stories in his work, and share with others where totem carvings originated.
"He was a happy person with a quiet sense of humor," Rick Williams said of his brother. "And he was a great artist."
Family said a memorial is being planned at the Chief Seattle Club, an organization that provides food, medical support, housing assistance and training for American Indian and Alaska Native people.
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