Photos show shot wood carver's knife was in closed position

Photos show shot wood carver's knife was in closed position
SEATTLE -- A series of photos is shedding new light on the shooting death of John T. Williams by police fire.

Williams, a Native American wood carver, was shot dead in August by Officer Ian Birk.

The photos, many of which were taken by a camera in Birk's patrol car, shows Williams crossing the street, then Birk walking in front of his cruiser.

Birk has said he shot Williams after he refused to obey his command to put down a knife. But some say the pictures, which show Williams' knife in the closed position, tell a different story.

"Remember the very first thing that we saw was the picture of the knife wide open that the police department put out," said Tim Ford, attorney for the Williams family. "And we know now that, as we've shown here, that the knife was closed."

The evidence was released to the public when Ford included them in a motion he filed in court.

Birk's attorney, however, objects to the significance of the photos.

"I think that the problem of what we're facing here now is with these leaks and the disclosures is that it seems to be aimed at coloring people's perception of the event," said Ted Buck.

Ford, however, claims that wasn't his intention.

"No, I want the judge to see it because we have heard about this finding of the shooting review board. But that has not been given to us," he said.

The Seattle Police Department took Birk's badge and gun in response to the findings of the department's Firearms Review Board.

Ford attached other evidence to his motion, including Birk's statement. Birk told investigators he "was struck with an immediate fear for" for his life. He said he ordered Williams to drop the knife a third time, but Williams refused to comply. That's when Birk said he decided to open fire as Williams was in close range and could attack if he chose to do so.

An inquest into the shooting is slated to begin at the King County Courthouse next week. And in the wake of the newly-released evidence, Buck believes seating an impartial jury will prove difficult.

"I'm afraid it's going to ruin the inquest process," Buck said. "And the citizens of Seattle deserve a fair inquest. Officer Birk deserves a fair inquest."