Day Five: Cop Says Closed Knives Are Grounds for Shooting


So, legal knives are illegal?


What's next, will the SPD tell us that all non-whites are automatically guilty?
From a distance of 20 feet, which according to Officer Collins is within the "kill zone," it would be very easy to mistake a phone, an iPod, a pen, or whatever, for just about any other small hand-held object -- including a knife or a gun. So it sounds like the police spokespeople are telling me that they can legally shoot me dead any time I am within 21 feet of a cop, as long as I'm holding a small object and the cop doesn't like the look on my face.

It's past time for a major overhaul of the SPD training program.
Ford: But you just testified that you could press a bolt, flip it right open. You don't really know, do you?
Collins: I think it's pretty common knowledge what the knife is for.

No follow up on what he thinks its common knowledge for? What is the implication? That Williams was carrying it for combat, versus carving wood? Stay classy, SPD.
@2 the implication is that if you walk with your hands in your coat pockets, or carry a

cell phone
cigarette pack
legal knife
bottle of water
God knows what else

And happen to be upset about... anything, and if you find yourself within 20 feet 11 inches of an officer, they can shoot you dead. If that's what any cops actually believe it's incumbent on getting them retrained. If they still believe it, fire the lot who do. I can't be the only one who would rather have a police hiring crisis than cops believing they need to be ready to kill on a dime for the utmost vaguest of a hint of a threat. The strong implication is that their lives are more valuable than ours.
So how much do we have to pay SPD officers so they'll stop shooting confused winos holding closed 3-inch knives?
This testimony from Collins is disgusting. It essentially tells the public to fear SPD officers. If my hands are in my pockets and I give a cop a "mean look" can I expect that I might get shot without warning? Disgusting.
@4 i think the SPD call that a "non-white authorized kill list".

Also, remember, wearing a suit gets you a free pass.
what a fucking mess
In. Fucking. Sane.
I <3 the Williams family attorney. Other than the lack of follow up on the "everyone knows what the knife is for comment". SPD is really stretching in this inquest though. You read about that cop who had his ears cut off last year? Really tragic case-there was nothing to hold his blue blockers on his nose, and he had to retire.
So the lesson is: if you value your life at all, stay the fuck away from cops.
Wow, it's almost like a cop will say any fuck-random thing to cover the ass of another cop.
@1, It's clear that they have already determined that to be the case.
@4 Yup. And re: "The strong implication is that their lives are more valuable than ours" -- it seems that WA state laws are written that way too. How scared are we now?

I think everybody commenting on this story should make their voices heard at the "Police Accountability" meeting with McGinn and Diaz on February 3 -- flier is posted further down on the main Slog page.
"We don’t get paid enough to be hurt."

What? You're a cop and that means you understand and are willing to take on the danger of what comes at you. And, that the money is enough for you to take that responsibility. I'm not trying to negate the courage it takes to be a cop but please, it is a job as well.

I believe that cops are the only people who stand between us and the criminals of the world. I thank them for their service.

But it feels like, at least in Seattle, we are in a bad place. On the one end, there's the fact that NO cop EVER does anything about a traffic violation. I have sat in my car oppose a cop and seen people running a red light. Nothing. Running a stop sign. Nothing. If it's not on the freeway, no SPD cop will do anything. It hurts this town because besides the fact that we have a lot of lousy drivers, we have a lot of dangerous ones.

What I get is "we're too busy or above doing a traffic stop." Okay fine but now at the other end, SPD seems to have a lot of trigger happy cops. This particular case is the poster child. It's just not believable and, as others before me have said, it seems like you could be carrying an umbrella or other object, have a crabby look on your face and they might draw their weapon on you.

People will lose faith and the willingness to help cops if they don't trust that the cops will act fairly.
I swear I saw a photo of the knife here on Slog before, but I can't find it now. As I recall, it looks very much like the folding knife my dad has carried on his person every day for the last, I don't know, 40+ years (as long as I remember). And a folding knife isn't like a butterfly knife - you have to open and close it with two hands. I'd better warn my old man to empty his pockets before he comes to visit. And, since he's Native, to make sure he keeps a damn smile on his face if any cops look at him sideways.
God forbid any old person with bad circulation forgets to wear gloves and puts their hands in their pockets ...
@17, not to back up these douchebags, but it is possible to open a folding knife with one hand. A loose enough blade can be wrist spun open. Those that have the thumb nubby, can be opened with your thumb easily.

Now, closing a blade indeed takes two hands. Unless it doesn't lock and is loose.

Today's Seattle PI has a photo of it posted with their article on the inquest.
Okay so almost everything he spewed was bullshit, but I feel I have to comment a bit re: knives. A lot of folding knives are specifically designed to be able to be opened one-handed very quickly. That does not make it a switchblade as the SLOG write-up implies; however, it certainly doesn't make it the terrifying inanimate bogeyman Ford makes it out to be, either.

For example,, which I found with about 10 seconds of looking on REI. There is indeed a nub/bolt that you would push with your thumb to open it one-handed. John Williams knife does indeed seem to be of this variety (link to article with picture here:…). Actually looks a hell of a lot like…, a knife I own and have taken on many a backpacking trip.

This is not to say I don't find this incident revolting or have the slightest doubt in my mind that Birk's behavior was grossly inappropriate. It's a tragic event, but let's attack them about the bullshit they're actually wrong about.

@17: I think you're probably thinking of something more like this:…. These usually require two hands, and are a lot slower to open. Note the lack of thumb nub.
@19: I'm glad we used nearly identical technical terminology. :)
How about my chef friends who roll around town with 6 or more extremely sharp knives in a knife roll? Should they be scared shitless right now?
@ 23 - Not if they're white, apparently....

A teabagger straps a semi-automatic weapon to his leg and goes to watch a speech by the president (with his other armed teabagger friends), and is not a threat at all, simply exercising their 2nd amendment rights. A Native American citizen walks toward a police officer holding his folded whittling knife and gets killed for being a threat.

What is wrong with this country?!?

If you hold the knife correctly, press your thumb down on that nut, if you have firm grip on the knife, you can open it quick. I’ve dealt with people who’ve held them many times.

Did you shoot and kill them?
@25 - "A Native American citizen barely turns toward a police officer holding his folded whittling knife and gets killed for being a threat."

There, fixed that for ya.

Look out! Drunk dudes can whip around, flip out a knife, jump you from a distance and cut your ear off in an instant. This is apparently some stupid fucking vampire movie where monsters hide in human form, so shoot first and explain later!
@20 --
Would you use that knife to carve?
Jesus. Man-up, Seattle cops. I'm surprised they don't shoot their own shadows. Isn't bravery supposed to be one of their virtues?

Officer William Collins: "Dearie me! That closed knife positively gives me the VAPORS!"
@29- It was daylight. Obviously we're dealing with a werewolf movie.
"We don’t get paid enough to be hurt."

Wow. Just wow.
Cienna, thanks for the great coverage
The last two paragraphs of this article from the Seattle Times tells us this:

Seattle police Officer William Collins, who served as a training officer for Birk and was one of the first officers to respond to the shooting, told jurors he considered Birk to be a "fine individual and a very good officer" who was able to calmly deal with people.…
Next it'll be, "We thought you might have a folded pocket knife at home, and we couldn't be sure you wouldn't go get it, come back, flip it open with one hand, go into Ninja stance, and come flying at us, so we had to shoot you."
this is ridiculos, that cop should go to prison. poor guy, sorry to his family