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SEATTLE The U.S. Department of Justice said it will investigate the Seattle police shooting death of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams last August. The Justice Department probe will determine if federal criminal charges should be filed in the case.

Williams was shot and killed after he crossed a downtown area street by then police officer Ian Birk. Birk was not charged but resigned earlier this year after the police department determined the shooting was not justified.

On the same day the DOJ announced it was launching a formal civil rights investigation of the Seattle Police Department, it said it has reviewed the local investigation into the shooting and is now starting its own probe.

The Department was previously monitoring the local investigation and now that their review is complete, we will conduct an independent review of the facts to determine if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil-rights laws, said Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, in a prepared statement Thursday.

The Williams shooting investigation will be separate from the DOJ s overall review of the police department. Called a patterns and practices review, it will see if there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by Seattle police officers.

Other controversial police involved incidents have been captured on surveillance video. They include officers stomping on a man and threatening to beat the Mexican piss out of him; an officer kicking a black youth with his hands up in a convenience store following a drug buy-bust operation; and officers tackling and kicking a black man who showed up in a police evidence room to pick up belongings after he was mistakenly released from jail.

Tim Ford, the attorney for the Williams family, told the Seattle Times he is encouraged by the Justice Department's decision to look into the Williams shooting.

We would like to have this investigated as impartially as possible, he said. The federal government would be the most logical candidate remaining. That sounds like a positive development.

Birk's attorney, however, said he thinks the Justice Department will not find anything and therefore is wasting its time and resources.

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