Seattle police Officer Ian Birk fired five gunshots at woodcarver John T. Williams four seconds after issuing the first of three rapid commands to put down a knife he was carrying, according to newly filed court documents related to the Aug. 30 shooting.
Less than a minute later, with a mortally wounded Williams on the ground, Birk was confronted by a witness who asked him why he had opened fire. Birk’s response, according to the documents: “He had a knife, but he wouldn’t drop it.” Williams also was carrying a wooden plank.
Birk made no claim at the time that he had been threatened or assaulted by Williams, according to the documents filed Monday by Tim Ford, a Seattle attorney representing Williams’ family.
Minutes after the conversation with the witness, Birk told responding officers, “He had it out; he was carving it up, carving up that board with it open. I approached him … and instructed him to drop it multiple times, and he wouldn’t do it,” according to the documents.
Birk’s attorney reacted sharply to the disclosure of the new materials, saying they do not tell the whole story.