Key conclusions of the Seattle Police Department's Firearms Review Board investigation of the shooting of woodcarver John T. Williams by Officer Ian Birk.
Key conclusions of the Seattle Police Department’s Firearms Review Board:
• Officer Ian Birk’s initial decision to stop and speak to John T. Williams — who was carrying a knife and seemed to be impaired — was justified, appropriate and warranted.
• Birk failed to properly describe to police dispatchers the circumstances of his attempt to contact Williams, and failed to request backup.
• Birk did not appropriately assess the risks inherent in his attempt to contact Williams, and did not employ proper tactics in light of this risk.
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• Birk did not properly identify himself as a Seattle Police officer or give Williams clear directions.
• The so-called “21-foot rule” is not a sufficient defense for Birk’s decision to shoot. *
• Birk’s decision to use deadly force was premature. The board concluded that Williams had begun, but had not fully completed, movements that would have predicated a justifiable use of force.
Note: * The “21-foot rule” essentially says the average person armed with an edged weapon can cover the distance of 21 or more feet faster than an ordinary, capable officer can mentally process the attack, draw his or her weapon and fire two accurate shots.