Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
John T. Williams-Ditidaht
SEATTLE - The US Department of Justice and the Western and the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington announced Friday that they are closing the federal criminal civil rights investigation of a former Seattle Police Department Officer for the fatal shooting of the late American Indian woodcarver John T. Williams, Ditidaht First Nations, and that charges will not be filed.
John T. Williams was fatally shot by former Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk on August 30, 2010. Williams was carrying a knife, which served as a tool for woodcarving, and a piece of wood in downtown Seattle. Officer Birk ordered him to drop the knife. When Williams did not put the knife down, he was shot four times by Birk.
The county prosecutor of King County, Washington, did not file charges against Birk, who resigned from the Seattle Police Department. Birk resigned from the police force on February 16, 2011.
Ndns for Justice to march today at 4:00 pm in Seattle
The Seattle Police Department Firearms Review Board concluded that the officer's use of deadly force on the late John T. Williams was unjustified and a Review Board Spokesperson stated that it was one of the most egregious failings he has ever noted.
Friday's decision has prompted the Ndns for Justice, a non-profit organization formed after the fatal shooting of Williams, to march today at 4:00 pm pst from the corner of 23rd and Union to the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct. The Ndns for Justice will join the Occupy Seattle Police Accountability Coalition march for justice.
“Obviously it did not go in our favor,”
stated Cindi Beech LaMar, Choctaw, who is the Chair of Ndns for Justice.
“To think Ian Birk will never be prosecuted for killing John T. Williams is wrong.”
Representatives of the Ndns for Justice will participate on the Red Town Internet radio show at 4 pm pst to discuss the Department of Justice's decision not to prosecute Birk.
"The Justice Department conducted a comprehensive and independent investigation of the events surrounding the fatal shooting,"
according to a news release released by the US Department of Justice on Friday.
"Federal investigators reviewed the patrol car videos of the incident; the testimony and exhibits admitted at the two-week King County, Washington, Superior Court inquest into this fatal shooting; the interrogatories filled out by the inquest jurors at the completion of the inquest; the report of the Seattle Police Department's Firearms Review Board; the Seattle Police Department's homicide investigative file, including all the eyewitness and forensic evidence; the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office's memorandum declining state homicide charges; and the involved officer's personnel and training files. Federal investigators visited the scene and also conducted interviews of civilian and law enforcement witnesses."
Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law. Accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment is not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.
After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the former Seattle Police Officer acted willfully and with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.
Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.
updated 12:57 pm est; posted January 14, 2011 7:50 am est
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