Federal charges will not be laid against the former Seattle Police Department officer who shot and killed Nuu-Chah-Nulth carver John T. Williams, the United States Attorney’s Office said.
US District Attorney spokesperson Thomas Bates made the announcement in a statement on Friday afternoon.
“Accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment is not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation,” Bates noted in his statement.
“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the former Seattle police officer acted willfully and with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.”
On the afternoon of Aug. 30, 2010, Williams was shot four times on a Seattle street by then officer Ian Birk, who said he saw the carver carrying a knife.
The announcement by Bates on Friday afternoon was news to Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council president Cliff Atleo, who wasn’t aware of the development.
“It’s a disappointment to hear because I characterized this event as a tragedy a long time ago,” Atleo said. “I can’t say anymore than that right now.”
Williams was one of seven siblings, and was a member of the Ditidaht First Nation on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Officials from the justice department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI met Williams’ family representatives on Friday to inform them of the decision.
Ditidaht tribal chief councillor Jack Thompson couldn’t be reached for comment.
The announcement comes one year after the King County prosecutor’s office decided not to pursue charges against Birk. State law protects officers from criminal prosecution when they act in good faith, the prosecutor’s office noted.
The results of an inquest released in 2011 were inconclusive about whether Williams actually posed a threat to Birk, or if Williams appeared threatening.
In 2011, the Seattle Police Department’s firearms review board ruled that the shooting was unjustified and recommended that Birk be dismissed from the force.
The city of Seattle paid $1.5 million for claims brought against them by the family of Williams.