Seattle police have released video of the August death of 50-year-old woodcarver John Williams, who was shot by Officer Ian Birk after not following orders to drop his knife. Williams was deaf in one ear, and his knife was closed.

The video, taken from Birk's patrol car, doesn't directly show Williams' death. But you can hear Birk shout "Hey" and "Put the knife down" (three times), as well as the horrified reaction of a female onlooker and Birk's attempts to explain his actions to her, and the police who arrive later.

Birk has already turned in his badge and his gun, and an inquest will be held in January. (A review by the firearms review board held the shooting to be not justified.) The knife Williams was holding—the one Birk considered a threat—was three inches, a half-inch below the legal limit in Seattle. (A number of commenters on the YouTube page and other news sites claim that Birk was a veteran fresh from Iraq when the incident occurred; I can't find confirmation one way or the other.)


It hasn't been a good year for police-community relations in Seattle, mostly because Seattle cops can't seem to stop doing things like telling suspects "I'm going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you" and punching teenage girls in the head for jaywalking. But then again, maybe the community should be less deaf! And carry fewer closed three-inch wood-carving knives!


[Seattle Post-Intelligencer]