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Jury answers questions in police shooting inquest

Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk in the courtroom. (KIRO Radio/Alex Silverman)

KIRO Radio staff

An inquest jury is split on whether a homeless woodcarver was a threat to a Seattle Police officer before he shot and killed him in August.

Jurors were asked to answer 19 questions after hearing testimony for nearly two weeks.

One juror answered "yes" to the question, "Did John T. Williams have sufficient time to put the knife down after Officer Birk's order?" Four jurors said "no" and three said "unknown."

See all the questions and answers

Prosecutors will use the jury's findings to help decide whether to file charges against Officer Birk. They expect to finish the review in mid-February.

Birk told the jury last week that he felt threatened, and was "left with no reasonable alternative but to fire" when he shot and killed 50-year-old John T. Williams.

The jury has been deliberating since Jan. 10 about what happened between the time when Officer Ian Birk yelled at Williams and when he fired his gun at a Seattle intersection.

Birk said he knew there wasn't something quite right with Williams when he first spotted him walking near the intersection of Boren Avenue and Howell Street.

"The way that he was carrying himself, his posture, the gait of his walk was consistent with people I observe suffering from some sort of impairment," Birk said.

He also said he clearly saw Williams with a knife in the open position, but the lead investigator on the case told the jury earlier Tuesday that the knife was closed when it was found at the scene.

Williams' brother, Rick, also testified that their father taught John to always close his knife when someone was addressing him.

"He would push the lock blade and use the board to shut the knife," Williams said.

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About the Author


Tim Haeck is a news reporter with KIRO Radio. While Tim is one of our go-to, no-nonsense reporters, he also has a sensationally dry sense of humor and it will surprise some to learn he is a weekend warrior.

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