Inquest jury split over questions about Seattle police shooting

Jan 20, 2011

Four of eight jurors in a coroner's inquest say woodcarver John T. Williams didn't have enough time to put down his knife before he was shot and killed by Seattle police Officer Ian Birk.

Only one juror found Williams had time to put down the knife. The other three answered "unknown." Thursday's conclusions are only findings of fact by the jury, which did not have to be unanimous. 

They weren't asked to decide whether Birk committed any wrongdoing. The results will be sent to the King County prosecutor's office to determine whether charges should be filed.

Birk confronted Williams last August as he crossed a street holding a piece of wood and the knife with a 3-inch blade. Evidence at the inquest showed it took about four seconds from the time Birk first told him to drop the knife to the first gunshot.

Earlier this week, Williams' brother testified that their father had always taught them to close their woodcarving knives when talking with people.