StoryCorps: Years After Police Shooting, Woodcarver's Brother Remembers The Man He Lost A Native American woodcarver, crossing the street with his carving knife, was killed when an officer mistook him for a threat. "I want them to know him the way I did," his brother says.

Years After Police Shooting, Woodcarver's Brother Remembers The Man He Lost

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And it is time for StoryCorps - today, a story about a police shooting. John T. Williams was a Native American woodcarver. In 2010, he was walking across the street carrying a carving knife, a small piece of wood, when he was shot and killed by a police officer.

His brother, Rick Williams, came to StoryCorps with a friend to remember him. Just a warning - this story contains audio from a police dash cam that some listeners could find disturbing.

RICK WILLIAMS: As a child, John was a happy person. And he loved to carve. He was 4 when he done his first totem pole.

JAY HOLLINGSWORTH: John was a native carver. And they can carve and walk at the same time. And that day, John was walking with an open pocket knife.

WILLIAMS: He was carving an eagle at the moment.

HOLLINGSWORTH: You see the dash-cam video. And you see the officer. He's already got his weapon out.


IAN BIRK: (Shouting) Hey. Hey.

HOLLINGSWORTH: He screams, put the knife down...


BIRK: Put the knife down.

HOLLINGSWORTH: ...A couple of times. But John was deaf in one ear.


BIRK: Put the knife down.


HOLLINGSWORTH: There wasn't any time for him to respond. It was...

WILLIAMS: 4.67 seconds. This image I see every day in my sleep. It's been six years. I walk through depression, suicide thoughts, anger, rage - it's a side of me that I want to leave alone. I've listened to people - you should hate white people. You should hate cops.

I find that sad because there's no way to say it in my language. I can hear my granddad's voice, (foreign language spoken), which means, can you be a warrior without violence? And I didn't get it until this happened to my brother, John.

On a weekly basis, I go sit at the cemetery and bring a cup of coffee and share a thought with my brother. How do I feel? I've asked many times, bring me this policeman. Let me share a day with you - what it would've been like to carve with John. I want them to know him the way I did. He was one of the finest.

GREENE: That's Rick Williams with his friend Jay Westwind Wolf Hollingsworth, remembering John T. Williams, who was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer in 2010. There were no criminal charges filed against that officer who resigned. The city of Seattle did settle with Williams' family for $1.5 million.

StoryCorps invited the police officer to record his story. He has not responded. Rick is now helping to carry on his brother's woodcarving traditions. This interview is archived at the American Folklife Center and at the Library of Congress.

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