On August 30, 2010, at 4:12:14 PM Pacific time, a 50 year old man named John T. Williams was video taped crossing a Seattle, Washington downtown intersection at the corner of Boren Ave. and E. Howell St. by a camera mounted on the dashboard of a Seattle Police Department patrol car operated by 27 year old Police Officer Ian Birk (Birk's patrol car is on Boren Ave. heading north).
Williams finished traversing the pedestrian walkway as he stepped onto the opposite curb at exactly 4:12:18 PM and continued ambling down the sidewalk, moving away from the intersection concentrating on the wood work he was holding in his hands. During the time that Williams is seen on camera, he's looking down and concentrating on what looks like a wooden board held in his left hand; which he seems to be carving with a small pocket knife held in his right hand.
At 4:12:22 PM, Birk gets out of his police cruiser, passes in front of his patrol car, and walks towards Williams (who had already crossed the street by now and moved beyond camera view) and yells at Williams (4:12:29 PM) "Hey, Hey,... Hey! (4:12:30 PM) Put the knife down! Put the knife down! Put the knife..DOWN!" (4:12:35 PM) BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG BANG (you hear Williams moaning).
Seattle policeman Ian Birk shoots John T. Williams five times in rapid succession at 4:12:35 PM, immediately after uttering the word "DOWN" for the third time. Williams' execution takes place within the space of five seconds from the time Birk yelled his first "Hey!" to the moment he ended Williams' life in a hail of bullets.
A chubby woman with a short sleeve white top and denim jeans is seen entering the pedestrian walkway at the far end of the intersection (at right angle to William's movement, and walking towards Birk's cruiser). She witnesses Birk shooting Williams at 4:12:35 PM while crossing the street, just a couple of steps short of stepping onto the sidewalk from the pedestrian crosswalk. She pauses and steps slightly to her right as Birk shoots Williams, but then continues walking, looking back at the shooting scene. She seems to slow down as she moves out of camera view.
At 4:12:44 PM, you hear Birk report the shooting to police dispatch with "233, shots fired Boren and Howell, subject wouldn't let go (?) of knife "
At 4:12:50 PM, the police dispatcher responds with "Shots fired at Boren and Howell" and puts out the call for backup.
At 4:13:26 PM, a female witness can be heard yelling at Birk from a distance, telling him: "he hadn't done anything". Birk immediately reponds " Ma'am, he had a knife and he wouldn't drop it"
At 4:13:30 PM police dispatch poses a question to Birk using police code numbers. Birk responds "under control; subject down". Dispatch responds "copy"
At 4:13:53 PM,the first Seattle Police backup patrol car arrives at the intersection of Boren Ave. and E. Howell St. Policemen on bicycles immediately follow at 4:14:06 PM and soon the intersection is filled with police cruisers, and policemen on foot
At 4:14:08 PM Birk responds to a (unclear) question posed by arriving police.
Birk: "Yeah, I'm okay".
(police sirens wailing)
At 4:14:13 PM Birk is heard explaining to arriving police : "he had ahh, he had the knife opened. I approached him and told (?) him to drop it multiple times. He wouldn't drop it. He turns towards me with (unclear) ("it" or "still"?) opened" (indistinct comments and questions. Unclear)
Birk then says: "that's the knife up there to the left".
(sirens, police radio, voices overlapping)
At 4:14:33 PM, a policeman is heard saying: "OK. Hold on guys. Get over here. Get in a single file, we'll go up together, alright? ...(unclear) Husser Nye (?), he's the designatd shooter. He already shot him. So shoot him again if need be" (unclear) "I made it (?)" (another voice: "I got it") " Let's move up" ("I got it. I got it, I got the cuffs (?) Ben (?)) . "Ready? (4:14:48 PM) We're gonna move up. Alright? Faye (?) Go. (another voice) "Move it!"
Police approach Williams.
Police: "Grab him. Grab his hands. Roll him over. (4:15:02 PM) Grab this hand"
Presumably, police cuff the dying Williams. An unidentified policeman then addresses Birk
"(unclear) buddy, you okay?"
"You bet" (4:15:13 PM)
"eh, wasn't" (garbled)
"Uhmm (?), I got my foot on him" (4:15:16 PM)
(unclear words) voices: "OK, alright"
(police radio )
Another policeman: "I'll now (?) go up, and I'll get the knife" (4:15:24 PM)
4:15:29 PM Unidentified policeman to Birk: "I'm glad you didn't get hurt, okay? And you stay with him please?"
"(Bob Yost (?) unclear) Okay? Until he goes home, Okay? (4:15:34 PM) Til he goes home. Okay? "
(pause, police radio: (unclear) "male, 45 years old, (unclear)"
Policeman to Birk: "As long as, as long you don't get hurt, okay?" (4:15:39 PM)
Policeman to Birk: "You OK?" (police radio in background) (4:15:48 PM)
Birk: "Yea, I'm fine. Nothing wrong here"
Policeman to Birk: "He had a knife?"
Birk: "Yea, he had,.. he had it out. (4:15:52 PM) Eh, he was, eh, carving it up; carving up that board ..with it opened."
Birk: "I approached him and ehh, (unclear, "dual" (?) (4:16:11 PM), instructed him to drop it multiple times, and he wouldn't do it"
Policeman to Birk: "Good job"
Another policeman: "Hey Ian!"
"Come here, buddy" (4:16:10 PM)
(Birk walks over)
Policeman: "How ya doing?"
Birk: "I'm alright. He had it OPENED (4:16:15 PM) . I asked him to drop it multiple times. He was carving up that board (unclear ) ....working "
(police radio and chatter in background for 5-7 seconds)
Policeman to Birk: "You did the right thing" (4:16:26 PM)
" Hi Jubb (?), We're gonna stick with, eh, Ian here. (4:16:30 PM)
(other police voices "I don't know if that car's going to move up or not..")
(unclear) "we're gonna stick with Ian" (4:16:34 PM)
"Don't do anything else. OK?" (4:16:38 PM)
(police radio in background)
(police chatter, multiple voices, sirens, etc for a couple of minutes)
Policeman: "Hang in there Ian" (4:17:15 PM)
Birk: "Yep, yep. We're alright"
"Take care of yourself. You did the right thing" (4:17:15 PM)
(police sirens, police radio)
The dialog transcribed above is taken from the Youtube video embedded below. I stopped transcribing the dialog at the 4:17:15 PM time stamp of the police car video and at the 06:02 minute mark of the Youtube video .
(For those of you with sharper ears than myself, if you think you can clarify any of the words or phrases which I missed, please feel free to contact me and tell me what you think is being said Editor).
After three and a half months, a King Country judge ordered the Seattle Police Department to release Birk's dashboard video. It was posted to YouTube on December 17, 2010, The video is 17:01 minutes long. (Click the four arrow box in the lower right corner of the video to widen the view to fill the full width of your computer screen)
The Seattle police who arrived on the scene found John T. Williams' pocket knife in a closed and locked position. The folding knife had a 3 inches long blade, which is within Seattle's legal limits and is therefore not illegal to carry or to use for the purpose of whittling wood, even while walking down a Seattle sidewalk. Since John T. Williams was not doing anything illegal, or committing a crime, or threatening anybody, there was no justification for Ian Birk to get out of his patrol car to go after Williams in the first place. The decision and events that led to the unjustified death of John T. Williams on August 30, 2010 were solely the responsibility of former Seattle police officer Ian Birk.
It's important to note that Ian Birk was standing 9-10 feet away from John T. Williams when he shot him.
An eight day Inquest into the shooting began on January 10, 2011 and ended on January 21. A description of the hearing with two embedded audio clips of Ian Birk's testimony are posted at this link:
Below is a transcription of Ian Birk's testimony heard in one of the audio clips (At this point, I don't know the name of the woman who is questioning Birk, but I plan to find out, along with the names of the jurors involved in the Inquest and post the information later).
Audio clip #1
Ken Adachi's transcription of Ian Birk testimony at the Inquest hearing (probably January 10, 2011)
[begin audio clip]
Woman: When the late Mr. Williams passed in front of your patrol car, were you able to see whether or not the knife in his hand was opened or closed?
Birk: I clearly saw a knife in the open position when he passed in front of my patrol car.
Woman: Did you see what he was doing with the knife?
Birk: I couldn't see it exactly what he was doing. I noted that he had what I thought was maybe a piece of plywood, a laminate flooring I guess, that was entered into evidence. And he seemed to be poking it or stabbing it or cutting it in some fashion with the knife.
So, as I'm calling out to Mr. Williams, uhmm, after, after I say "hey" three or four times, he does finally then stop and begins to turn around, staring at me. Uhmm, and at that time, I became immediately concerned based on what his posture and, ahh, demeanor was.
Woman: Tell us about that. What was it about his posturing and his demeanor that made you more concerned?
Birk: Well, as he turned, ...he...he turned with his head first, almost as he had when he was back in the (unclear) ...and then the rest of his body continued to follow. And, the first thing that I noitced, because he turned first with his head, his face, and we made eye contact, from what I could tell, and he had a very stern, very serious, very confrontational look on his face.
Ehh, and then he continued to turn. I could see that he still was holding the knife up in front of himself. And he was holding it up in front of himself in sort of ehh, a confrontational posture. And as soon as I saw that he still had the knife out, because I couldn't be sure -maybe he tucked it away or what- I immediately started telling him to drop the knife; to put the knife down. ehh, and at that point, it became pretty serious, pretty fast.
Woman: Now, why did you use the term "put the knife down" instead of "drop the knife" or "drop it" or anything else?
Birk: Ahh, difficult to say. Hmmm, it's certainly possible that there could be a, a better order to give in that situation. Ahh, but I certainly felt as though I was communicating a clear order as a police officer and that the intent of what I want Mr. Williams to do was clear.
And ... he wasn't doing anything remotely close to putting the knife down or dropping it or anything of the sort.
And then as I'm telling him to drop, put the knife down for the third time, ahh, his waist dropped, he lowered the center of gravity, and at that point, ahh, if he had had the opportunity to take a step in my direction, I don't think there was much I could have done, ahh, to stop him at that point.
Woman: What happened next?
Birk: Well, at that time, hmm, I was not left with any reasonable alternative but to,..but to fire at Mr. Williams, which I did, Uhmm, and it was not immediately apparent to me whether or not my rounds were striking him or what effect they were having. But, after a few moments, hard to say how much time it was, I did notice that he was, his posture was changing and that he was, ahh, going to the ground. And at that time I stopped firing.
[end of audio clip]
John T. Williams was apparently homeless, lived on the street, drank alcohol regularly and carved wood. The autopsy revealed that he had a blood alchohol level of 0.18 % at the time of his death. His family said the 50 year old man could not hear well and was nearly deaf in one ear.
If I was a 50 year old homeless man, normally walking around in an alcoholic haze and I'm concentrating on carving a design into a wooden board, I'm not going to respond too quickly to someone yelling "Hey!" somewhere behind me. It's going to take at least two or three "Hey!" before I'm even going to realize that someone is yelling at me. Of course, I would have NO IDEA who was yelling at me, because I'm only hearing the word "Hey!" and not "Police! Stop" which is what policemen are SUPPOSE to say.
And then when I turn around and see a young cop yelling and pointing a gun at me and acting like Rambo, for doing absolutely NOTHING illegal, then I'm going to be upset, and I'm likely going to register that "demeanor" on my face.
I wouldn't know, of course, that three seconds later, I would be shot dead because my "posture and demeanor" left no other "reasonable alternative", at least for Ian Birk, than to shoot me five times.
The injustices surrounding this event did not end on August 30, 2010 with the taking of an innocent man's life. What followed in the wake of John T Williams killing is even more grotesque and unbearable.
Something must to be done in this country to bring an end to such heinous police brutality, the corrupt officials who protect these individuals from prosecution, and the statutory "laws" that enable such men to get away with cold blooded murder.
I'll continue the story in Parts 2 and 3.
Subject: Officer Ian Birk, Seattle Police, Murders Innocent Pedestrian in Cold Blood ~ No Charges (Feb. 18, 2011)
Date: Mon, February 21, 2011
To: Ken Adachi
Thank you for your excellent website.I greatly appriciate your time and insight.
I just read your current article about the unwarrented killing of John T Williams in
Seattle on Aug. 30,2010. This was heart breaking and senseless.
I grew up in Seattle
and was aware of this event. I did not know until I read your article that the
officer was aquitted of the crime. I call it a crime because John Williams was
clearly innocent. What upset local folks the most was he is well known in the area
and yes, he was a bit of a nut case, but he never harmed or bothered anyone.
pride in his carvings and I believe he either sold or gave them away to many locals
and other street people...The question remains why did Officer Birk, and other
officers like him, on patrol in a known homeless area not do his homework and care
enough to acquaint himself with the facts of who are the people on the streets he
Any caring human being would not have shot someone like John Williams, the
man who loved to carve wood.
I never knew him, but have known about many like him doing their best to survive and
find a meaningful life on the streets. I have far more respect for him than a man
who only thinks with his gun.
God Bless John T Williams and I trust he has found a
place of kindness and appriciation where he can share his love of carving.
The police senario that went down never asked about John, who he was or his well
being, or what his motive was...very sad to know that Seattle, a fine city in many
ways has lowered its' standerds to this.
Thanks for your note. I might mention that Ian Birk was never charged with anything, and that's at the heart of the issue. He resigned from the Seattle Police Department recently, in an obvious move to remove heat, not only from himself, but to take heat off the police chief, the mayor, the city council, the Police Guild, the Office of Professional Accountability, and above all, King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
These individuals and these organizations have failed completely in their duty to citizens of Seattle and need to be held accountable for their roles in whitewashing this crime and not taking the necessary steps needed to pursue criminal charges against Ian Birk
All information posted on this web site is
the opinion of the author and is provided for educational purposes only.
It is not to be construed as medical advice. Only a licensed medical doctor
can legally offer medical advice in the United States. Consult the healer
of your choice for medical care and advice.