John Williams Shooting Inquest Begins This Week

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee January 10, 2011

And it's not gonna be pretty.


A day after a Seattle police officer fatally shot John T. Williams, Police Chief John Diaz said he had "a lot more questions than answers."

More than four months later, the public search for answers will start Monday morning with the opening of a court inquest into a shooting that has drawn sharp community criticism and has been found to be unjustified in a preliminary Police Department review.

The eight inquest jurors won't be asked to weigh whether Officer Ian Birk is guilty or innocent of wrongdoing in the Aug. 30 shooting. But the fact-finding hearing could help shed light on one of the most controversial Seattle police shootings in years, and may determine whether Birk could face criminal charges or the loss of his job.

No inquest in King County has ever led to the filing of criminal charges against a police officer involved in a fatal shooting, which is not surprising since inquest juries generally have found that officers acted properly.

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