$1.5 Million dollars – Deaf shall not = Death

Heye all:


Just learned that there is a $1.5 MILLION Dollar civil settlement in the murder of John T. Williams, a partially-Deaf First Nation woodcarver, by a Seattle police officer.

As John T.’s brother, Rick, noted – this will not bring John back.

“This is one step towards justice, but it is only a step. Nothing can make up for the loss of my brother,” said Rick Williams, who is the administrator of the John T. Williams estate.

But it is something.  it is a measure of something to finally see something acknowledge that John T. Williams was Deaf and that officer Birk’s shooting of him in the span of a few secs was UNJUSTIFIED.

Birk told investigators he fired shots after Williams refused commands to put down a knife. But it was later revealed that Williams was partially deaf and may not have heard Birk’s commands.

I have been worried folks.

I was worried when i first learned of the case – worried about how sometimes being Deaf ends up in being Dead

We had some murders of Deaf folks of color in Rochester, NY a couple of decades ago – since then our police force has under gone alot of training and worked VERY closely with our Deaf community developing videotapes, inservices, outreaching, etc and no other unjustified shooting of Deaf folks has happened in Rochester, NY since.

so while these improvements can never bring back the loved ones and our lost members it is just the weeest measure towards – u did not die in vain and that is an important gain.  however small it is the greatest one we can hope for – that no one else will go that route.

I’m especially grateful to the National Association of the Deaf for having sent a STRONG letter (click the LETTER in  link) to the Seattle Police Dept expressing their outrage at the murder of John T. Williams and informing them of various guides they have re: Police interaction with Deaf individuals.  I dont know if the letter played a role in the settlement but i am sure it did not hurt.  And the lack of any letter from the NAD would have been a disgrace and an outrage.  John deserves our taking a stand and i’m so glad to finally see some type of organizational response beyond Audism Free America’s message of standing with the First Nation in mourning the loss of John T. Williams and their call for an investigation.

I am still incredibly sad that this happened.  I am still incredibly sad when i re-visit some of the comments in my first blog entry re: John’s killing in which a member of the Deaf community defended/justified/rationalized the officer’s action and minimized any possible audism in the equation.  It still pains me to think on this.

but my overall feeling is one of a quiet relief that Birk is no longer a police officer, the Deaf community spoke out via AFA and NAD on behalf of John T. Williams, the Seattle police dept made the watching of a video on encountering Deaf individuals while on patrol mandatory, and this $1.5 million award has been granted.

I hope some day to be able to see an exhibit of John T. Williams’ carvings and to thank his family for staying so true to him.  They have been humble but diligent in their quest for justice for John and their desire to ensure it never happen again.  I admire them.

link to article that the quotes above r lifted from: (thanks for the link Don g)


past People of the Eye entries re: John T. Williams (yes, i got very affected by this case!)

Being Deaf is Deadly???

More Links on the shooting of John T. Williams

4 votes – William Not Imminent Threat

Police Off for Murder of John T Williams

NAD – Thank U and John T Williams ILY

The Truth Prevails – think of it always




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jenny Witteborg
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 14:58:54

    Good post!

  2. handeyes
    May 16, 2011 @ 20:13:09

    thank you jenny


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