as we approach the new year – i hope one of our united efforts will be to make sure no one else is shot down on a city street simply for not heeding an officer’s call because…. s/he could not hear it.
John T. Williams, a Native American Deaf wooden carver, was killed by a policeman on August 30, 2010 in Seattle Washington in the United States of America.
His crime? Unknown, unclear, unanything because he committed none at all
Known? He was a Native American
Known? He was a person of the street
Known? He was poor
Known? He was an artist
Known… to folks who loved and knew him? He was Deaf
Unknown to the officer who shot him? He was DEAF
What did the officer know about John T. Williams except for that which he saw with his eyes – you can see it too at this youtube video of the police cam. (note: no captions) The shooting takes place off camera but the audio is recorded. What we can see is John T. Williams crossing a street holding on to some things as he walks.
The officer pulls up the car. Stops it – exits and marches after John calling out “hey,
[They are off camera now but we can assume that John has not turned around or stopped because…
HE IS DEAF]
hey, hey. Put the knife down. PUT THE KNIFE DOWN. Put the knife DOWN.” pop, pop, pop, pop.
John is DEA
24 7 sec John T. Williams is no more (added 4/29/2011 – 24 sec from when he begins to cross the street but only 7 secs from the time the cop called out to him to put down the knife to when he started shooting- 7 sec)
What about using a taser, what about shooting at his foot, what about wrestling him to the ground – the knife was small the man was old, what about running to be in front of him and putting ur hands out, what about pulling ur police car in front of him so he can SEE what is going on and know this is serious.
The police department’s Firearms Review Board made a preliminary finding that the shooting wasn’t justified. But the decision whether to charge the officer with a crime will be up to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg after the inquest in January. (from Real Change, Dec 22, 2010, Vol 17 No 35)
Since the shooting takes place off camera we dont know if John T. Williams was ever even aware that anyone was behind him, that someone with a GUN was behind him.
We dont have any knowledge that he knew he was just about to be gunned down.
Later when a slew of cops arrive on bikes, in squad cars etc the shooter says that he called out to the man repeatedly to drop the knife and he didn’t.
He makes no mention of the man turning around, the man gesturing, the man lunging out at him, the man charging at him, the man knowing that he was even behind him.
This may be one of the worst cases of accidental audism – this cop may have simply been operating on the assumption that EVERYBODY hears.
But they dont.
And they shouldn’t be shot down because they don’t.
And even if he was hearing (which he wasnt) and he refused to turn around and drop the wood carving knife – should he really have been shot several times – KILLED in the middle of a beautiful day.
Police officers are supposed to be Peace officers.
I know some times they cant be – i know sometimes they have to use excessive force and i know that we dont SEE what took place via this video but from what we do know – those of us who have not responded when we have been called cuz we didnt hear we was being called – we know it invites anger, mistrust, misunderstanding, frustration, rejection, inspection, and more from those who dont know and understand
so what’s the plan?
This is not the first police shooting of a Deaf man on a noon day street. There have been more before and they are often Deaf folks of color.
So what’s the plan?
The Island First Nation people have called for a thorough investigation. A petition was out. Audism Free America joined its support with the Native American community in protesting this death.
Where are the Deaf folks of Seattle?
John was our brother.
I totally feel this. Not just because he was an artist, not just because he was a Native American man, not just because he was Deaf but because he was a human and he is no more on this plane.
And that is WRONG folks
It appears that what the cop didnt know about John and didnt see about John is that he was DEAF
and that is no reason to be DEAD
What will each of US do individually and collectively to make sure being Deaf is not Deadly?
Here’s wishing each and every one of us a better new year. And a year where each of us works to ensure that its a better year for our brothers and sisters and not just ourselves because…
our humanity is interconnected – it truly is. My heart goes out to the family of John T. Williams, to the officer who did the shooting and his family also.
Much love and peace,
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington letter to the US Dept of Justice Civil Rights Division (December 3, 2010) request to Investigate Pattern or Practice of Misconduct by Seattle Police Department
several links about this case – some videos are not captioned (feel free to add more links in the comments box – especially if u find captioned versions of the videos)
cop cam – see John T. Williams cross street and cop pursue
ASL video with captions
Deaf man – spoken English with subtitles
spoken spanish news report
news program – Native Americans solidarity and activism (no captions)
Rally in John T Williams Memory Part I and II
video with pictures of John T Williams, Native American community’s reaction /response, and totem poles (text box has article and lyrics to song)