No witnesses to the shooting death of John T. Williams reported seeing behavior exhibited by Williams that could be construed as threatening to Officer Ian Birk when questioned by Seattle police officers, testified Detective Jeff Mudd, the lead homicide investigator into Williams’ death, when questioned this morning.
The second day of the inquest hearing into the Williams’ death (Day One here) commenced with further testimony by Mudd, who testified that Officer Birk already had his gun drawn when he passed through the on-dash video frame that captured the audio from the shooting. When questioned by Tim Ford, the lawyer representing the Williams family, Mudd also confirmed that in the on-dash video, Birk was making a “come here” motion to Williams with his free hand while shouting “Hey!” at Williams. This prompted Ford to ask, Are Seattle police officers trained to shoot people who don’t come at them with weapons?
“We’re trained to shoot people who pose a threat to us,” responded Mudd. But, again, no witnesses interviewed by SPD reported threatening or aggressive behavior coming from Williams.
More after the jump.
Here are a few other details stressed by Ford’s line of questioning: Officer Birk did not call for backup. The time it takes between Birk’s three rapid-fire orders at Williams to “put the knife down” to when Birk opens fire is 4.6 seconds—a questionable amount of time to process and obey such an order for anyone, let alone a reportedly half-deaf man.
Ford also made Mudd test the locking mechanism of the knife found next to Williams’ body repeatedly to demonstrate that it worked. The three-inch carving knife locks when in the open position. However, the knife was found in the closed position at the scene. Mudd testified that a third-party testing the knife showed the locking mechanism was faulty—meaning that Williams' was arguably brandishing an open knife that snapped closed when Williams dropped it. Mudd's repeated testing of the knife's locking mechanism weakened this argument.
Everyone called to testify this week will be questioned by attorney Melinda Young, representing the King County Prosecutor’s office, attorney Tim Ford, representing the Williams family, and Ted Buck, who is representing Officer Birk.
By the week’s end, a six-member jury will be tasked with answering a series of questions about the circumstances surrounding Williams’ death—questions that could be used to launch criminal charges—if the King County Prosecutor’s office sees fit—or a civil suit against officer Birk.