AUGUST 30, 2010 - Seattle, Washington




John T. Williams, a 50-year-old seventh generation Nitinaht carver of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, was shot four times (5 bullets fired) by a Seattle police officer Ian Birk on August 30, 2010. He died at the scene. His only crime appears to have been walking across the street carrying a carving knife and a chunk of cedar. The officer thought it was important to find out what was going on and why this person had an open-blade knife in public. Seattle Police Departments Deputy Chief Nick Metz said Birk got out of his car, approached Williams from behind and ordered the woodcarver to drop the knife three times. When Williams failed to do so within four seconds, Officer Birk fired his weapon five times from a distance of 10 feet. Williams was struck by four bullets, including one lethal shot to the chest wall, and died at the scene. In its initial statement to the press, SPD described Williams as having been “advancing towards” Officer Birk, who felt threatened and responded by firing his weapon. Over the next few days, eyewitnesses began stepping forward to dispute this version of events, and the police department quickly retracted its statement.