The outcry continues over a Seattle police officer’s shooting of a deaf Native American woodcarver on Aug. 30.
Yesterday, hundreds of people marched to help keep attention focused on the fatal shooting of John T. Williams, a member of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Dititdaht First Nation in British Columbia.
SeattlePI.com’s Casey McNerthney reviews the facts:
Williams, 50, was shot four times at Boren Avenue and Howell Street on Aug. 30, after police say he didn’t follow three verbal commands to drop his carving knife, which had a three-inch blade. Williams had come from a family of carvers and was part of the Nitinaht Tribe.
The shooting – the third officer-involved fatal incident this year – has prompted an internal investigation, a major police department overhaul, and promises by Police Chief John Diaz of a “peer review” by two outside police agencies. An inquest will also follow Seattle’s internal investigation.
Deputy Chief Nick Metz said investigators are looking into why Officer Ian Birk, who shot Williams, didn’t call for backup before shooting him. Police said the incident happened in about a minute.
According to both his familhy and court records, Williams – who carved miniature totem poles – struggled with alcoholism and homelessness.
About 80 people gathered in Seattle Tuesday night for a vigil to protest the shooting by police of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams.
Williams, who was deaf, was shot Aug. 30 by Seattle police officer Ian Birk after he ignored orders to drop a three-inch folding knife, reports Carly Flandro of the Seattle Times:
A Seattle affiliate of the October 22nd Coalition, a national group concerned about police violence, organized Tuesday’s “vigil and speakout.” Several people spoke into a megaphone, held signs with Williams’ photo and clutched some of his carvings. Williams often carved and sold miniature totem poles.
The group included several of Williams’ relatives, as well as a number of homeless people who knew Williams from the streets. Wiilliams, a member of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Dititdaht First Nations in British Columbia, was well-known for the miniature totem poles he carved.
“He was a really gentle person,” Brenda Michaels tells Flandro. “Violence is not in his nature.”
As an aside to this story, reporter Carly Flandro once interned at the Missoulian. It’s wonderful to watch her covering important stories.
We apologize for starting the long holiday weekend on such a sad note. This story out of Seattle is pretty intense, concerning as it does the fatal shooting of a First Nations carver by a city police officer.
Yesterday, Native American and First Nations people gathered in Seattle to demand a full investigation into the shooting of 50-year-old John Williams, saying it was unjustified.
As Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times reports:
One of John Williams' totem poles (Seattle Weekly photo)
John T. Williams, 50, a member of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Dititdaht First Nations people on Vancouver Island, was killed by Officer Ian Birk near downtown Monday afternoon. Birk saw Williams with a knife and repeatedly ordered him to drop it just before shooting Williams four times from a distance of nine to 10 feet, according to Seattle police.
Williams, it turned out, was a First Nations totem carver carrying a 3-inch folding knife, and a chronic inebriate who had told people he was deaf in one ear, and often had trouble understanding what was said to him.
The reaction to the shooting has involved hundreds of people, including Seatle Mayor Mike McGinn, who attended a candlelight vigil for Williams Thursday night in front of the Chief Seattle Club.
A protest is being planned for Sept. 10.