News Jan 27, 2011 at 4:00 am

Inside the Courtroom During the Inquest into the Death of John T. Williams


Don't forget SPD's own Firearms Review Board has already found this to be an unjustified shooting:

"Birk previously testified in private, to the Seattle Police Department's Firearms Review Board. The board and Police Chief John Diaz found in October that the shooting was unjustified under department policies, but won't make a final determination until after the inquest."

Taken from Seattle Times article titled: 'Officer on fatal shooting: 'No doubt ... attack was coming'

Interesting that the review board didn't want to make their final decision until after the inquest. Was that so they could hold their evidence and findings so as not to sway the inquest?

Now we get to hear what the SPD Firearms Review Board has to say. As I understand it, Birk was already relieved of his badge and sidearm. The questions now are: Will SPD do the right thing and give Ian Birk a dishonorable discharge from the force? Will SPD take measures to ensure this never happens again?
P.S. No matter how Mr. Williams chose to live his life, it was a valid life. To write about him in a way to endorse the feeling that it wasn't is institutional racism, media racism and social classism.

So, a big thank you to Cienna Madrid for not using the preferred way of writing about John T. Williams.
Gee, I wonder whose side the "reporter" is on.

I don't think Mr. Williams "chose" so much of that life as it chose him.

Either way. Yeah. He sure didn't deserve to be executed by some trigger happy Dirty Harry wanna-be.
I worked as a nurse at the King County Jail for ten years. John T. Williams was a frequent guest at our facility... not because we was some huge dangerous guy, but because he had a bit of a problem with the sauce and recurrent run-ins with issues related to vagrancy. I encountered him many, many times over the course of working there and always and only ever found him to be a jovial, congenial sort of guy. To the best of my knowledge, he was never a violent or aggressive sort of an inmate. He would chat about his carvings and joke with the pride that the T. in his middle name was for "Trouble" (like, literally, it was his legal middle name). I could never, never, never imagine John Williams posing a threat to anybody other than himself, least of all a healthy, young armed police officer. I watched the video and it made me incredibly sad. There is nothing that could be said other than that cop just walked up and killed a gentle, 'mindin' his own beeswax' man. Shame, shame, shame on him. And shame on the SPD prosecutor's office if they don't press charges of murder against that man. RIP John Trouble Williams.
PS again... "King County Prosecutor", not SPD prosecutor. And here's a little info about John, in case you were interested:…
Murder by a trigger happy cop.What about a Taser,which in this case still would've been unjustified but at least Mr.Williams would be alive.Then people wonder why many cops get no respect,most people fear these frustrated judge-jury and executioners who hide behind badges and are some of the most jaded humanoids on this planet.
I wouldn't hold out much hope that Birk will be tried. For him to be convicted of any type of homicide (manslaughter or murder) under state law, a jury would have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with malice. That's a MUCH higher standard than required to convict an ordinary citizen. Write or wrong, that's the law.
Why is the life of a military armed police officer automatically deemed more valuable than that of us citizens? The underlining assumption is that a shoot first and ask questions later protocol is acceptable; I believe a culture of violence permeates the SPD and all other U.S. city police forces. So yes there is some truth to the cries of police brutality, racism and nepotism within the SPD.
I am increasingly troubled and incensed by this notion of nepotism and the closing of ranks around Mr. Birk. The testimony given by the other officers points to an endemic belief within the FORCE that what has taken place is acceptable. If I am to believe that what has taken place is to be viewed by all other officers as within the parameters of acceptable behavior as prescribed by protocol and training then I fear for my life and wellbeing and the life and wellbeing of my child my wife and fellow human beings. It becomes imperative for me and other informed citizens to stand in protest and resist what is institutionalized murder. It puts me at odds with an organization that I in part have hired to protect me and my family and fellows and our rights, freedoms and property. It is now the responsibility of each officer to stand up and denounce this officer and to denounce the officers testifying in his defense. It is now the responsibility of the Seattle Police Department and the City of Seattle to denounce and discredit this police officer and those that testify in his defense and the essence of their testimony. Anything short of an official statement against this act of belligerent violence from individual members of the FORCE, the commanding officers and official representatives as well as the elected leaders of the city makes them party to the statements given by these officers that what it is that has taken place is acceptable and prescribed by protocol and training.
It puts me at odds with an organization that I in part have hired to protect me and my family and fellows and our rights, freedoms and property.
It is now the responsibility of each officer to stand up and denounce this officer and to denounce the officers testifying in his defense.
Officers don't denounce each other. The pack dog mentality is alive and well.....Until witnesses come forwards.

We should all be frightened.
Welcome to the real world Seattle, I know John and have watched the whole city walk by him in disgust with heads down. Shame on you for not recognizing the larger problem. Both are victims of something even this 'cultured' society is unwilling to understand. I would love to see you commenters lift your head away from your ipods or books to recognize that our city has huge social problems which we assume that these young officers we hire can deal with for all of us. This problem is bigger than all of us so don't be so quick to judge.

Real life Seattle...I have seen countless people walk past John with heads down avoiding him and his actions. Countless times defended my girlfriend from his and his friends words/actions. I see nothing but your heads down on the bus, the train, the street. You all seem to speak up online, this problem is bigger than Birk and Williams yet we will lose two. All of the posters big words and little actions just show the passive aggressiveness of this 'city'. Show me some action people don't just judge a kid who was forced to deal with all of our problems on his own. SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE for doing nothing yourselves then going home to your studios and judging via the internet...Shame on you.
Ms. Madrid, you left out this fact:

Inquest jury question #2. "Was John T. Williams holding an open knife at the time he was first observed by Officer Birk?
YES: 8."

That is an important piece of information, don't you think? All eight jurors concluding that Williams did have an open knife as he crossed the street in front of Birk's cruiser. And walking down the sidewalk with an open blade, even on a legal knife, can be a crime. See RCW 9.41.270. That is why Birk "closed he distance" on Williams.

Reasonable minds can disagree on the shooting being justified, as the inquest jurors did. But Birk making contact with Williams was good police work. Not doing so would have been negligent.
Cienna, both this article and your ongoing blogging during the eight days have been informative, smart and nuanced. Thanks for doing such great work.
The whole deal is unfortunate but I would like to know where all of these seemingly concerned citizens were when this guy was passed out in a puddle of his own piss ? Where was this concerned,tightknit family when this guy was begging for spare change for his next jug of rot gut ? Where were all the indian rights folks when he was flipping shit (yea thats right, I remember this clown) to passersby while staggering drunk ? I wonder if all this new found concern is due to the likelyhood of a civil suit against the SPD and the City of Seattle and the possibility of some easy money for all the poor, poor grieving people mentioned above ? Before you predictably cry racist you will be disappointed to learn that I am one hundred percent Tlingit and as such have absolutely zero sympathy for any street drunk, especially one who had every oppurtunity from a virtually free education to literally dozens of programs to improve ones self and their standing in society. As for the "reporter" that wrote this train wreck, you may want to stick to the facts and not let your emotions run rampant as that is the tell tale mark of an amateur not to mention embarrassingly partisian.
John and drunken friends used to sit on the Pike/Boren overpass and say really incredibly nasty and insulting stuff to me when I walked by daily on the way home from college and work. As much as this disgusted me and made me hate them, I would never wish anyone to be assassinated in this manner. The police are out of control. We need people who are trained in social service and mediation on the beats, not military types itching for action. Maybe there needs to be a woman partner for every cop. Someone with social skills and compassion to even out the testosterone.
My take on this, he wanted a notch on his belt. So now that this has happened i believe charges should be pressed. And a trial, reason being, even if he gets off it will be on his record for the duration of his career. Which if they try him for murder or manslaughter hopefully his career will be over. he should not hold a job that allows him the power he has. AND until something is done with the SPD attitude i will no longer spend my money in the city of Seattle,
Hopefully the cruise lines get wind of this and lets Seattle know this is unacceptable.
I believe the officer was looking to put a notch on his belt.
I met John in Seattle didn't care for him, but i liked his work and when i addressed him he put his knife away.
I think they should charge the officer so he can never be put into a job that allows him the chance to carry a firearm again.
Ian Birk is at best trigger-happy. More likely, he is a violent bigot, like so many members of the SPD. Probably ex-military scum.

I doubt there is one single SPD officer who is not guilty of police brutality or of covering up for a colleague who is. From tasing people to death to punching jaywalkers in the face to curb-stomping people while shouting racial epithets. And no one ever disciplined. Brutalizing people is just business as usual for the SPD.

This is why when police officers get gunned down in a coffee shop or in their parked patrol car, my first thought is that they probably had it coming.
Sad, sad situation: I agree with much of what you wrote and am also angry that native people aren't pulling themselves up out of the gutter. If you're racist against your own race, that's the worst racism of all because then you hate yourself. I don't believe your racist, but that you want the best for your race. All natives do deep down, but the socio-economic problems we have run so deep that it's going to take generations to overcome them all and be able to compete fairly with white society.
One of the best-written articles on this that I've read. To deliver your views directly to Satterberg and other leaders, check out
Why is it so hard to fire an incompetent police officer? It happens, anytime you have jobs you have people who suck at them. There is no need to coddle him, he screwed up, killed a guy and now he isn't allowed to have that power anymore, because he sucks at it. I don't think he should go to jail, I don't think anyone has proven any malice on Birk's part, just GROSS INCOMPETENCE, so fire the guy.
I read Ian Birk's statement that is linked on Thanks Mhann.

He states that Mr. Williams "finally turned toward me in a counterclockwise movement".

That is totally contradictory to how he testified in court and what the evidence shows.

The shooting occured around 4:20pm and he wrote the statement at around 10:00pm.
I'm baffled that he couldn't get it right after five and a half hours of thinking about it, but he could deduce that he was threatened and shoot a man in approximately 10 seconds. The board John T. Williams was carrying was the only thing in danger from his knife.
There is a car dealership directly across the street from the shooting. No one has asked what their security cameras recorded - and why their footage hasn't shown up yet. (There is also usually an off-duty cop sitting at the entrance).
WE THE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING YOU SPD. CLOSELY. 24/7. SPD, You made a choice to back up the murderer Birk. Each and every Seattle Police Officer that backs Birk is just as guilty as Birk. So, now...WE THE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING YOU SPD. CLOSELY. 24/7. Please be good. We need you to be.

Please wait...

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