SEATTLE -- Jurors are now going through the laborious process of answering 19 questions that will help untangle a controversial police shooting in Seattle.
Officer Ian Birk shot and killed 50-year-old John T. Williams on a sunny August afternoon at a busy Seattle intersection after stopping to confront theFirst Nationswoodcarver about a knife he was carrying.
Video from Birk's dash cam patrol car shows Williams slowly walking in a crosswalk. He had a piece of wood and a knife for carving. Birk stopped his patrol car and ordered Williams to put down his knife. Seconds later, Birk fired four shots, killing the woodcarver.
The jurors are being asked whether Officer Birk believed that Williams posed an imminent threat of serious physical harm at the time Birk fired his weapon.
They are also being asked to determine whether the woodcarver actually did pose a threat. Another key question is whether Williams had sufficient time to put down his knife after he was ordered to do so.
The jury is reviewing the two patrol car videos that were shown during the inquest. The first video shows Williams crossing the street, followed by Birk getting out of his patrol car and following the woodcarver.
Birk can be heard shouting hey hey hey, then ordering Williams three times to put down the knife. Shots ring out four seconds after the first command to put down the knife.
The second video was from a patrol car that arrived after the shooting. It shows Officer Birk in a police stance, his gun pointed at Williams on the ground about nine feet away. It also shows back up officers arriving and handcuffing the motionless woodcarver.
Over the span of two days, Birk testified during the inquestthat he had no option but to use lethal force. The officer said that Williams turned on him, crouched and took a threatening stance with an open knife.
However, several people testified that they witnessed the shooting and never saw Williams make any aggressive moves toward the officer. William's knife was found closed on the ground next to his body.
On Tuesday, his brother Rick Williams, also a woodcarver, testified that John always closed his knife when people addressed him.
The last witness to testify was Omar Simon, a forensic chemist at Northwest Laboratories in Seattle, who tested the knife. Simon told jurors the knife could have closed when it hit the ground because the locking mechanism was damaged.
Last Friday, a King County Medical Examiner testified that Williams could have been turning at the time the bullets struck him.
The jury consists of 6 members, plus two alternates. While the two alternates get to deliberate during the inquest, they don't get to vote. And the jury's answers do not have to be unanimous. They will be used by the King County Prosecutor's Office in determining whether Birk should be charged with a crime.
The inquest is a fact finding proceeding and does not determine guilt or innocence. It's being closely monitored by the Williams family, minority groups and police watch dog organizations.