SEATTLE – The City of Seattle has reached a $1.5 million settlement with relatives of a Native woodcarver shot and killed last year by a Seattle Police officer.
John T. Williams was shot Aug. 30, 2010 by Officer Ian Birk in downtown Seattle.
The settlement was reached after a mediation involving representatives of Williams' estate, Williams' mother and the city, according to a City of Seattle press release.
"This is one step towards justice, but it is only a step. Nothing can make up for the loss of my brother," said Rick Williams, John Williams' brother.
"Money is not a brother, money is not a son," said Tim Ford, attorney for the family, "and money is not a life taken away and great artist taken away."
According to the settlement agreement, $1.25 million will be paid to the estate of John T. Williams, to be determined by probate court how it will be distributed. According to state law, only spouses, children and parents can qualify as heirs. At this point, only Williams' mother has come forward, said Ford.
The remaining money will be placed in trust for Williams' mother, presumably to pay for legal fees and in case other heirs eventually step forward.
In exchange for the money, Williams' mother and estate resolve all potential civil claims they could bring against the Seattle Police Department and Birk.
No criminal charges have been filed against Birk. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said state law prevented him from doing so.
But the family said the fight is not over.
Two Department of Justice investigations are ongoing, which could result in a federal civil case against the Seattle Police Department's patterns and practices, and a potential federal criminal case against Birk.
"He wanted to kill," said Jay West Wind Wolf Hollingsworth, a friend of the Williams family. "I'm hopeful that a federal prosecutor will see it as well."
Furthermore, the state superior court can still convene a grand jury against Birk, despite Satterberg's decision against it.
"The court can actually do it without him if it wants," said Ford. "It's never happened, but it can happen, and we think it should happen."
A Seattle Police Department firearms review board concluded on Feb. 16 that the shooting was not justified. Birk resigned later that same day.
Other than the press release, the Seattle city attorney, mayor, and police chief all declined to comment on the settlement "due to the sensitive nature of the case," said a city attorney spokesperson.