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Seattle to Pay $1.5 Million in Woodcarver Cop Killing

By Robin Enos on May 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The City of Seattle will pay $1.5 million to the heirs and estate of John T. Williams, a Seattle woodcarver shot dead by a Seattle Police in August 2010.

It was an emotionally-charged police shooting that say a law enforcement office quit and avoid prosecution.

On August 30, 2010, Seattle PD Officer Ian Birks stopped his patrol car after seeing Williams crossing a street carrying a knife and a piece of wood. Birks told a police firearms review commission he saw a "very stern, very serious, very confrontational look" on Williams' face, reports the Vancouver Sun.

Birks said he demanded Williams drop the knife four times. Birks shot Williams about four seconds after the first command. The review commission found the shooting "unjustified," reports the Sun.

King County prosecutors have confirmed that Birks, now resigned, will not be prosecuted for the homicide. Prosecutors say they found insufficient evidence of the criminal intent or malice required under Washington law to prosecute a law enforcement officer for homicide. Birks resigned shortly after the review commission's findings were released, reports the Sun.

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation of Seattle Police, focusing on possible excessive use of force and discriminatory policing, reports CNN. And federal prosecutors are reviewing the Williams homicide to determine whether Birk should be charged criminally with violating Williams' civil rights.

The City of Seattle does not admit fault, but the settlement agreement has no confidentiality clause.

A 3-inch knife with the blade folded closed was found next to John T. Williams after the shooting, reports the Sun. Nobody has stated on the record what that might mean to a determination of the officer's intent when he shot that Seattle woodcarver.

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