Police Off for Murder of John T Williams

ADDED 2/17/2011 – Ian Birk, the police officer who killed John T Williams, has tendered his resignation from the Seattle police force.

ADDED 2/19/2011 – Demonstrators class with Seattle police.  Pepper spray used.  Back window of police car blown out – police forget to park the car and it rolls into a police van and hits someone.


Summary of video:

Why no mention of John being Deaf?

Links below with more information and links.  The main point of this vlog is to share that i would like to see the Deaf community do something – send a message of our concern about the shooting of John T. Williams of the First Nation, Seattle, Washington  by a policeman who saw him walking with a small knife and piece of wood.  John himself was a wood carver, an artist.  The police pursued him and called out to him to drop the knife.  John being a hard of hearing / partially Deaf person – it is unclear if he heard the officer’s orders.

From the time the officer first called out to John and the time he shot him – was only 4 seconds.  Not minutes – 4 S E C O N D S!

He shot and killed John.  Today Seattle, Washington prosecutor’s office announced they will not be charging the officer with the murder of John T. Williams.  I’m shocked.  I was concerned about whether or not they would do right.  I had no idea.

They did have an inquest in which 8 jurors listened to all the testimony, witnesses and reviewed all the evidence.  The witnesses said they did not see John threaten the officer.  Four jurors said that John was not a threat to the officer.  One juror said he was and three said they were unsure.  The prosecution said based on those mixed results, it is not enough to charge him with murder.  In Seattle, Washington they have a provision that if a police officer is threatened or a person is a threat to society, the police officer may shoot to kill.

The next step is that the police dept will do their own investigation to determine if they will keep him on the police force or not.  Keep or terminate.  He already turned in his gun and his badge and has been on paid leave during this investigative process.

Prior to the inquest there was a departmental fire arms investigation which determined that the shooting was NOT JUSTIFIED because it was too fast – regardless of if he was threatened or not – they determined it was not proper police procedure.  Based on this previous determination, it will probably lead the new police investigation to terminate the officer but the prosecution office will not charge him with murder.  He may possibly loose his job but not his freedom because of the defense that he was threatened.  Another possible next step would be for the case to go to civil federal court.

What hit me today is in reading a couple of articles and blogs from that area is there is no mention of John being Deaf.  No mention of his being Deaf or hard of hearing – did he hear the orders or not – NOTHING!

During the inquest they asked several questions to the jurors but none of the questions asked “if John T Williams heard the officer?  Did he know to drop the knife to fully turn around and see the officer?”   They were asked if he had turned around to help determine if John was a threat or not because if his back was turned to the officer – how could be be a threat.  I think only a few said he had partially turned.  It was very unclear.  But did John fully hear and understand what he was being ordered to do – that question unattended to.  To me it is a most salient question.  Very important.  There were witnesses there – did john stop and fully turn around and respond to the officer.

I’m very disappointed.  One article said several groups and organizations wrote letters to the prosecutions office expressing their concerns.  I’m wondering if the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) sent anything?  Any other Deaf groups send letters.  Its important.  I know many members of the community – Native American and Seattle, Washington community will host rallies to show how upset they are.  I hope members of the Deaf community will be represented there as well.  I’m concerned that a significant part of who John was is being overlooked in the whole process.  Thank you.


Past “People of the Eye” Entries about John T Williams Case

Being Deaf is Deadly? (Has several other videos)

More Links on the Shooting of John T Williams

4 votes – Williams Not Imminent Threat

Letter sent:

Dear Members of the Seattle Police Force:

We know you all have a MIGHTY hard job and we would hate to have your job. We are thankful that there are folks willing to risk their lives to protect the city of Seattle

We are very sad and sorry that one of your own pulled the trigger four times on one of our own – John T. Williams – unjustly, unfairly, unnecessarily, and uncompromisingly.

We watch with eager eyes as Seattle works to right the past wrongs of police brutality and errors (see ACLU letter to the US Dept of Justice Civil Rights Division) – especially those that have been born out of racism, classism, ageism, ableism and audism*. More awareness of Deaf folks as a cultural, linguistic, and differently abled group is very much needed. Too many folks have been killed in the line of simply living Deaf lives. We look forward to seeing the police force and the city of Seattle work towards being peace officers as well as police officers.


Concerned Members of the Deaf Community

Definition of Audism from Audism Free America:
Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katherine
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 01:36:19

    It happened in Rochester three times by the same police department. Three different deaf people. First victim involved a settlement between the police department and DOJ. Second victim reached a settlement. Third victim, who is African American, was shot and killed by the officers. He died in vain. All within few years. Where have Rochesterians and its Deaf community been? No excuse, given its large deaf community per capita. And NAD did nothing. Very appalling.

  2. Don G.
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 02:12:13

    My sister-in-law lives in Seattle. She said on my FB:

    “Firearms review board ruled the shooting unjustified. Said he should never be allowed to carry a badge, wear a uniform or be allowed to carry a weapon. He resigned”.

    Would still like to see charges formally brought against this guy.

  3. handeyes
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 03:38:08

    Katherine –
    katherine – i remember those cases in Rochester about 10 – 15 years back? help me remember when. in tried to find info on line but too old. dont think we have had similar here since. police have been real good about having Deaf awareness training and various efforts (video, visor card etc) Thank u for ur comment cuz its really important to remember those. more recent incidents in other states too.

    NAD has been more active and visible lately so I’m hopeful they will send out something about this and police interaction with Deaf folks in general



  4. handeyes
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 03:39:27

    NOTE: Don – your sister in law had the latest scoop and was right – sorry i doubted you and her. i didnt see anything last night about him resigning but penny has provided a link below confirming the resignation happened yesterday afternoon. it is from a blogsite but looks reputable. possibly part of the agreement for appeasement?
    so u can ignore the rest of the text below if u want to

    hi don – thanks for the info. i did mention about the fire arms review board. my understanding is ian birk (the rookie cop who shot Williams) turned in his badge and gun and is on paid leave. he has NOT resigned from the force from what i have been reading.

    if u find something that shows he has permanently resigned from the force, pls do let me know.



  5. Penny
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 06:13:35

    Hi Patti-

    I want to confirm that Don G received correct information about the officer resignation. Here is the link.


    Penny 🙂

  6. handeyes
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 12:05:56


    thank you so much for giving this link

    ill add it to the blog entry and also my comment

    i didnt see this notice when i was searching last night but all i hit were official articles and they probably came out before Birk tendered his resignation and i probably missed this particular blogsite that you found

    very important so i thank you



  7. handeyes
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 12:24:41

    found this link so i put that up in the blog entry above


    again thanks penny



  8. handeyes
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 13:43:38

    got another link from dianrez via FB so have put that up in this blog entry

    plot thickens – oy politics!


  9. deafa
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 14:19:39

    I think Birk was trained incorrectly. There are not enough awareness in the police department. Usually they are trained “if the person is uncooperative, take action” being deaf can be mistaken as uncooperative.

  10. deafa
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 14:24:32

    btw, I don’t care if this person can hear some of the time. We , hoh, have days where it even hard to hear. Especially background and distant noises (hence the hearie comment “she can hear when she wants to” believe me, I am never one of those person who ignore conversation, Its impossible because I know I will miss out if I do)

  11. handeyes
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 02:09:21

    well, seems the seattle police force needs a mightly lot of re-training based on the ACLU’s letter

    re: “mistaken as uncooperative” – Yep – Deaf often get mistook for intentionally ignoring

    re: partially Deaf folks – hearing fluctuating or varying depending on the environment – BIG TIME

    and that old accusation of “selective hearing” and a “lazy tongue”

    my goodness!



  12. Sheri A Farinha
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 00:09:41

    Great activism Patti! Thank you!

  13. Trackback: $1.5 Million dollars – Deaf shall not = Death « PEOPLE OF THE EYE -…first, last, and all the time” – g. veditz 1910

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