Cop's video captures gunfire that killed woodcarver

Cop's video captures gunfire that killed woodcarver »Play Video
Officer Ian Birk is seen walking after woodcarver John T. Williams seconds before shooting him to death in this screenshot from Birk's patrol car dash cam video.
Scroll down to view the video from the patrol car's dash cam.

SEATTLE - A dash cam video from the officer who shot and killed Native American woodcarver John T. Williams was released Friday, showing Williams ambling slowly across the street in a crosswalk before the officer opens fire.

Although much of the action takes place off-screen, the fatal gunshots can clearly be heard.

At the start of the video, dated Aug. 30, Williams is seen walking across the street in front of the patrol car.

The patrol car starts to pull forward, then stops.

Officer Ian Burke can then be seen walking after Williams and shouting, "Hey, hey, hey! Put the knife down! Put the knife down!"

The officer walks off-screen, shouts again, and then five shots ring out in rapid succession, killing Williams.

From the moment Birk gives his first command, Williams has just seven seconds to react until the first shot is fired.

A woman can be seen crossing the street as the shots are fired. After she walks out of the frame, a female voice can be heard saying something to the officer. It's garbled, but it sounds like she's asking, "What did you do that for?"

Officer Birk responds, "Ma'am, he had a knife and wouldn't drop it."

Later, fellow officers talk to Birk out of the camera's view.

They ask, "How you doing?" Birk responds, "I'm all right. He had it open, I asked him to drop it multiple times, he was carving up that board."

On the tape, Birk never tells fellow officers he was afraid and never says Williams was threatening anyone.

Attorney Tim Ford, who represents Williams' family, calls the officer's response critical evidence.

"That is the sum and substance - there is no claim of an attack or an assault or anything like that," says Ford.

But Ted Buck, Ian Birk's attorney, says, "It's far from something that's going to be harmful to our case."

Buck insists the video supports Officer Birk's claim that he feared for his life.

"We're talking about a time frame and a deadly force scenario where those seconds are an eternity to an officer facing an armed suspect," Buck says.

But Williams' supporters say the video proves their belief that it was an unprovoked shooting of a harmless woodcarver.

"I think that this was a murder," says Lila Lewis of the Chief Seattle Club.

Feanette Blackbear of the Lakota Nation, adds, "I want justice for John T. Williams."

Birk's badge was later pulled after a Seattle Police Department Review Board and Chief John Diaz reached a preliminary finding that Williams' shooting was not justified.

A judge ruled Thursday that the clip from officer Ian Birk's car could be released to the public after prosecutors had a chance to notify witnesses not to view the tape.

The tape's release comes after a public disclosure request from the Seattle Times.

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.