Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy John T. Williams Day!

For what it's worth... In case that name doesn't ring a bell, John T. Williams is the guy who got shot by a Seattle cop last summer. The mayor has made today John T. Williams day for real. I'm sure that's a great comfort for all of those who knew him. I actually saw him a lot around Belltown and the market. He always spoke very loudly - he was quite hard of hearing - and often drunk. He was not a model citizen. But that doesn't mean he should have been shot for giving a cop a dirty look. And that's what happened. He was a woodcarver, carrying his tools with him. Ian Birk, the cop who killed him thought he posed a threat. The time between the his first warning to Williams and when he killed him was just over four seconds. Like I said, Williams was no pillar of the community. His postmortem blood alcohol level was something like .18 - more than twice over the legal driving limit. But that doesn't warrant execution. The guy had troubles with alcohol. I feel sorry for his family and friends, but it also brings up a very troubling scenario: once the cops can start shooting people like Williams with impunity, doesn't that put you and me at risk, too? Last year, it's poor John Williams. This year, it might be some dude from Issaquah who's having a bad day. Or maybe somebody from Kenmore says the wrong thing to a cop. Or it could be me. I'm a Slav. Although I've lived my entire life in this country, I'm genetically predisposed to assumed that the law will be disproportionally harsh for any offense. I know in my mind that this is a different country, but my poor peasant soul isn't so trusting. That's why this whole thing is so disturbing. Officer Birk didn't get prosecuted, because they said that his actions represented a "good faith" effort to enforce the law. Well, at least Birk resigned from the force. That's the only consolation.


Anonymous said...

Really, the only people who have to be concerned are those who are non-white (I mean, look at everyone in the past decade or so who has been murdered with no good reason by the Seattle police) or part of a somehow societally-marginalized segment of the population (homeless, addict, mentally ill, etc.). But of course, this is a much bigger issue than just this city's police force having a general disregard for these parts of the population -- because if we all, as a whole, didn't have the same kind of general disregard, then this would never be allowed to happen once, and has been allowed to happen, numerous times, over a lot of years. This says some very uncomfortable things about all of us, and while it's a lot easier to chalk it up to fascist cops or something like is most certainly not that simple or comforting (so to speak) of an explanation.

Anonymous said...

This is absurd. No one who obeys when the cop trains his gun on you is going to get shot (or nearly no one, less that hit by lightning). Drunky McBum committed suicide by cop. The above commentator is typical: "...somehow societally-marginalized segment of the population (homeless, addict, mentally ill, etc...)..." Somehow societally-marginalized? I'm sure you propose we celebrate those folks instead. To far too many PRS citizens, working folks and taxpayers are the ones who should be ashamed, while addicts and vagrants are who we should celebrate.

Where is any sense of personal responsibility? Where is any moral outrage at this celebration of idleness, of a willingness to menace society (if you menace a cop, you'll certainly menace a normal person freely), of a disregard for the basic civilities that make civilization function? Woodcarver my ass -- you're not an engineer if you sleep under bridges, you have to build them.

Better services for the mentally ill can only be funded if we protect the funders -- the taxpayers -- from those who don't value civil society (like Mr. Williams).

Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone "celebrating" anything & all the above comments are those of someone who see's themselves as better than others... so he had a drinking problem, you may be ungly... he could have stopped drinking but his drinking may have made you look better. Look, the bottom line is he was human, cop & drunk, both are/were human. One wrong don't make another wrong right. It was a shitty thing that happened, I saw it! You didn't. BUT shit happens, one day we will all be dead. After that... no more worries, so why worry now?! Make the best of what you've got, smile, be happy, be thankful. Life is too short to waste on a headache which is all that stress & worry will gain you.
Let it go.

Christeh Weazel said...

Sure sounds like murder to me. Be very careful of how you arrange your face when you look at a cop.

Anonymous said...

I had the delight of dealing with him in the 90's, walking by my fruit stand at the market several times a day attempting to steal. once his hands touched something you just had to let him have it, he was a menace to society and I doubt ever did anything positive, wood carver, please, a menace to all he was.