Video of fatal Seattle police shooting of woodcarver released

Video of fatal Seattle police shooting of woodcarver released

Credit: SPD

Dash cam video shows Seattle Police officer Ian Birk leaving his car just before he fatally shot John T. Williams.

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on December 17, 2010 at 6:11 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 20 at 9:25 AM

SEATTLE - Police dash camera video of a fatal shooting of a woodcarver by a Seattle police officer last August has been released. Click here to watch the raw video

You can't see the shooting in the video, but you can hear it.

Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk's dashboard camera shows woodcarver John T. Williams apparently carving on a piece of wood as he walks in front of the patrol car. He's looking down and appears to be minding his own busine

Birk, a two-year veteran officer, follows Williams and yells.

"Hey. Hey. Hey. Put the knife down. Put the knife down. Put the knife down."

Then, five gunshots are heard in rapid succession.

From the time Birk makes initial contact by yelling "Hey," seven seconds passes before he fires.

Williams' friends say he likely did not hear Birk yelling.

"He was deaf in one ear, so he probably didn't understand what the officer was saying," said Lila Lewis.

Shortly after the shooting, you hear a female witness yell to Birk, "He didn't do anything."

Birk responds, "Ma'am, he had a knife and he wouldn't drop it."

Birk's attorney says Williams was a threat.

"He was walking around downtown Seattle. He was inebriated and he had an open knife in his hand," said attorney Ted Buck.

After the shooting, Birk tells another officer, "He had the knife open. I asked him to drop it multiple times. He turned towards me."

An inquest will decide if Birk acted too hastily. A preliminary police finding was that the shooting was not justified. Birk has been stripped of his gun and badge.

A judge ruled Thursday that the video should be made public. Buck argued that allowing the release of the video now could taint the memory of witnesses and their accounts of what they saw.

KING Television and The Seattle Times made asked for the release of the video through a Public Disclosure Request.  They argued in court that releasing the video is essential to ensuring that the inquest process is transparent.

Williams' family also asked that the video be released at this time. They pointed out that videotapes of some of Williams previous encounters with the police have already been released and show him in a negative light.

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