Reactions to the decision to not bring charges in the shooting of John T. Williams
The decision by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg not to bring charges in the shooting of John T. Williams brought strong reaction.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg:
"The policy of this state is to give police officers this special protection. The underlying policy, passed 25 years ago, is a sound one. My first and foremost responsibility is to follow the laws in the state of Washington. I had to look and see, 'Is there malice, is there a lack of good faith?' "
Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess:
"I want to acknowledge that the King County Prosecutor's decision today leaves many people angry and disappointed. I've read the prosecutor's decision and I understand his reasoning, but I fully appreciate that it won't sit well with many in our city."
Seattle Police Chief John Diaz:
"I cannot stress how important this is. A man is dead. We owe it to him, we owe it to his family to not just do this quickly, but to do this right."
Ida Edward, John T. Williams' mother:
"I know [Birk] did wrong. And the Lord knows he did wrong. So it is going to be between him and the Lord. If I keep holding a grudge against him, I'll be hating the police officer, and I would rather hold back my hate. I will hold it back."
Nancy Williams, John T. Williams' sister:
"It is like he is getting away with murder. He is going to have a smirk on his face, and he is going to go crazy with that gun, thinking he can get away with it. It really ticks me off. It shouldn't end that way. I want him in jail. If it was anybody else other than him they would have been in the slammer already."
Harvey Williams, John T. Williams' brother:
"The police force is judge, jury and executioner. There needs to be a clear message that the police force is there to protect the people. And the archaic law that protects police officers needs to be changed."
Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild:
"Tactically, could he have made different decisions? Sure. But he committed no crime. He can now move on. The vicious things he was called — murderer, racist, a liar — he doesn't have to put up with that anymore."
Sweetwater Nannauck, Native community activist:
"I thought this might be a steppingstone for change, to do something for future generations. Instead it is a step back, not a step forward. All this talk about working with the community, all that crap, it's just words. It doesn't mean anything."
Denise Stiffarm, Gros Ventre tribal member, and president, board of directors, Chief Seattle Club:
"I am gravely disappointed. ... This sends a strong message to the Legislature that they need to review the standard [for bringing charges] so an egregious incident like this isn't allowed to slip through our legal system."
Jennifer Shaw, deputy director, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington:
"We think this shooting is just a symptom of a bigger problem, which is why we want the U.S. Department of Justice to come in and do a full investigation of the Seattle Police Department."
Ted Buck, attorney for Ian Birk:
"I wasn't surprised by the decision not to charge. There isn't anything criminal in what happened out there. As to his decision to resign, it's a heartbreaking thing. He is an extraordinary, committed young man. This is a career that has been tragically cut short. It's been an extraordinarily emotional and traumatic event and he has decided it is in his best interest and his family's interest to simply move forward."
Information in this article, originally published Feb. 16, 2011, was corrected Feb. 17, 2011. A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. It has been corrected to reflect that Councilmember Tim Burgess said the statement.