Inquest into woodcarver's death by police fire set for Jan.

Inquest into woodcarver's death by police fire set for Jan. »Play Video
John T. Williams
SEATTLE -- Family members of slain Native American woodcarver John T. Williams gathered in court on Tuesday in search of answers into their loved one's death.

An inquest into Williams' shooting death by Officer Ian Birk has been set to begin on Jan. 10. The facts of the case will be laid out in the open through the process.

For instance, police said Williams was holding a knife and refused to put it down when Birk opened fire. They released a photo of the knife in which the blade was seen open. But an attorney representing the Williams family released a photo taken at the scene that shows the knife was on the ground and the blade closed.

Now the questions about what happened that day will be played out in court. Friends and family of Williams, including brothers Rick and Eric, are hoping for answers.

"This information isn't going to be hidden under a rug some place," said Tim Ford, the attorney for the Williams family. "All that we're trying to do is make sure that the people who sit in that box get a chance to hear the evidence objectively and fairly."

But Ford worries most of the testimony will come from cops.

"The police who saw him laying dead on the ground -- is that who's going to testify?" he said.

Ford thinks inquest jurors should hear from Native American woodcarving experts who would explain it's not unusual for Williams to be carry his carvings and knife on the streets.

Ford also demanded that Birk's dashcam video be released to reporters so the public can see Williams was not posing any threat to the officer.

"I think it will show an officer shooting a person four to five times in the side who was carving on a piece of wood," he said.

But Birk's attorney claims the video will exonerate the officer.

"Officer Birk faced an imminent threat that day, and we think once the evidence (is laid out), it will show clearly that it did," said Ted Buck.

A judge has forbid the release of the dashcam video, citing potential harmful effects on jury selection.

A preliminary review by the Seattle Police Firearms Board found the shooting was not justified.