Body Camera Video Appears To Support Police In Shooting Death Of 17-Year-Old Hannah Williams
One week after a Fullerton Police officer shot and killed 17-year-old Hannah Williams on the 91 freeway in Anaheim, the department released body camera video Friday that appeared to show her pointing a replica handgun at the officer just before he opened fire.
The lawyer representing Williams' family acknowledged that because she was in a shooting stance, the officer had to "make a split second decision," adding, "we cannot exonerate him at this point, but we certainly can't condemn him."
Fullerton police also released still photos and audio from a 911 call Williams' father, Benson Williams, made the night she was killed. The photos, audio and body camera footage were packaged into a narrated incident briefing released on YouTube.
In the briefing, Fullerton police spokesman Lt. Jon Radus said the K-9 officer who shot Williams was driving eastbound on the 91 to take his dog to the vet when he noticed an SUV traveling at "a high rate of speed."
When the officer tried to pull her over, the "SUV appeared to have intentionally collided with his police car," Radus said. "The driver then made an abrupt U-turn into oncoming traffic and came to a skidding stop, facing the wrong way on the freeway."
He said the officer radioed for backup because of the driver's "erratic behavior."
You can watch the full incident video below. WARNING: The video contains graphic violence and language that may be offensive to some viewers.
In the body camera video, Williams' vehicle can be seen stopped in the roadway.
The officer steps out of his patrol car and walks around the rear of her vehicle with his gun drawn. As the officer comes around to the driver's side, Williams can be seen in the far right side of the frame. She is facing him with both her arms raised in front of her body, apparently pointing something at him. Within the space of perhaps one second, the officer opens fire and Williams can be seen falling to the ground in front of the vehicle.
In the moments that follow, a dark object can be seen on the ground a few feet from where Williams is lying on her back. The officer appears to address someone off screen, saying "Yeah, you see the 417 [gun] on the ground?" Shortly after, a plainclothes officer who has arrived on scene moves in to assist, and he can be heard saying, "It's a replica, it's a replica."
Throughout the rest of the body camera footage, Williams can be heard pleading for help and saying, "I can't breathe." She tells the officers she has been shot in the chest. The two officers render medical assistance, tending to the wound in her chest and applying a tourniquet above a gunshot wound in her left leg.
Officials say Williams died later at the hospital. The gun recovered from the scene was a replica Beretta 92 FS, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
Williams had struggled with mental health problems for over a year, Williams family lawyer Lee Merritt said. In the audio of a 911 call placed 90 minutes after the shooting, Williams' father reported that she had taken the family's rental car, had been gone for several hours and was on medication for depression.
When asked by the dispatcher if he was afraid his daughter might harm herself, he said, "I am."
Merritt said the Williams family still has a number of questions about the way the incident unfolded, and he criticized the authorities for not sharing the details of the shooting sooner. But he said that the video gave the family "a bit of closure," adding, "they can sleep better tonight knowing they have some answers."
Williams had lived with her family in Anaheim with two younger siblings. An older sister is serving in the Air Force, according to family spokesman Jarrett Maupin. Williams also worked as a lifeguard at Knott's Berry Farm's Soak City waterpark, according to her godmother Lanette Campbell.
"Hannah was a beloved daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, friend," Campbell said at a news conference on Tuesday. "She had her whole life ahead of her."
Investigators have not disclosed how many times Williams was shot. The results of the coroner's autopsy are being withheld pending the completion of the investigation, according to a spokeswoman for the D.A.
Frank Stoltze, Paul Glickman and Brian Frank contributed to this story.
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