Dec 27 2010
By now, most of you are aware of the fatal shooting of Native American carver, John T. Williams. Politicians are usually adept at avoiding the unpleasant conversation regarding what the implications of this shooting are or how they actually “feel” about these tragedies. In contrast, on September 15, 2010 I convened a 4-hour hearing in Council chambers to openly discuss the full event and all of its ramifications. The Seattle channel video of the discussion is below and the Seattle Human Rights Commission discussion starts at 17:28.
The purpose of the discussion was to make sure a fair and full investigation of this matter was conducted and to discuss what we can learn from this unfortunate event.
Our discussion included officials from the City of Seattle Native Employees association or CANOES, Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Washington Indian Civil Rights Commission, Washington Human Rights Commission, City of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission, Chief Seattle Club, United Indians of All Tribes, National Indian Urban Coalition, Suquamish Tribal Council, and the Puyallup Tribal Council. Seattle Police department officials were invited, but did not attend. To read the specific recommendations resulting from the discussion, please click the links below.
- CANOES (City of Seattle Native American Employees)
- Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities
- Seattle Human Rights Commission
- The Seattle/King County
Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH)
- United Indians of All Tribes Foundation
As you may know, the Firearms Review Board has preliminarily indicated that the shooting was not consistent with its rules and procedures for use of deadly force. At the time of this writing, the King County Inquest proceeding is underway to determine whether any criminal charges should be filed as a result of the shooting. In that proceeding, an actual jury is convened to hear arguments advanced by the Prosecuting Attorney and opposing arguments made by attorneys for the Police Officer.
I have been very vocal about this shooting for the simple reason that I believe Seattle has to find a better way, a more humane way, if you will, to address this kind of situation. My heart goes out to the family of Mr. Williams and to Officer Ian Birk and his family. I think it as tragic to take a life while on duty, and certainly tragic to die unnecessarily. That fateful day cannot be rewound.