CANTON, Ohio — The Canton Police Department released body camera video Wednesday of a New Year's Day shooting that left a 46-year-old man dead.
The incident happened just outside James Williams' 10th Street SW home at around 12:06 a.m. on Saturday. Police responded to the home for shots fired, with the Canton police officer seen on body camera video being confronted by shots allegedly being fired by Williams behind a 6-foot privacy fence just outside the house.
The wife of James Williams, Marquetta Williams, told News 5 she understands celebratory New Years' gunfire unto the air is illegal in Canton, but she believes the officer involved should have announced he was outside the family home before firing his gun into the fence.
“I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m hurt, but more overall I’m angry about how it happened," Williams said. "He didn’t deserve to die the way he did.”
“You can’t see through this fence, you just took it upon yourself because you see someone shooting in the air, to just decide that you’re going to shoot them. You didn’t even announce yourself, you didn’t say 'police, put the gun down, freeze,' or anything, and if he would have, he would have put the gun down. The lack of logic is you didn’t announce yourself, that’s the lack of logic.”
“It’s senseless, I need justice, I want justice, the officer needs to be charged.”
The video starts with the officer talking over the radio. "I saw the male's head through the fence after I heard the shots. Got out of my cruiser and went up to the porch and I saw him putting the rifle away."
Moments after the officer stops talking, gunfire erupts nearby. The officer runs towards the fence with his gun drawn, and you can see muzzle blasts from a firearm behind the fence going towards the sky. Shots from behind the fence continue to ring out as the officer stops in front of the fence and then the officer fires his weapon multiple times through it.
After shooting at the fence, the officer retreats, radios "shots fired" and then yells out, "police, get down." He then radios, "shots fired, send us everybody" and goes back to his cruiser.
James Williams was taken to a nearby Altman Hospital for treatment but later died.
According to Canton police, "the officer, in fear for his safety, fired his duty weapon at the subject and struck him."
Canton Law Director Kristen Bates Alyward told News 5 Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the independent investigation and said the officer, who is on administrative leave, will not be named, as in all cases, while criminal charges are being considered.
“BCI will eventually present it to the grand jury to determine whether or not criminal charges are warranted," Bates Aylward said. "After that, the City of Canton does an internal investigation. This is done by our Bureau of Professional Standards, which would be done after the criminal investigation concludes."
Akron national security law enforcement procedures expert, Tim Dimoff, told News 5 that according to the body camera video, the case will be based on what the officer and witnesses perceived before the officer fired shots at Williams.
“The officer walks right into rapid-fire, and he has to figure out, or his perception at that point is most crucial," Dimoff said. “If he perceives that the gun is also being pointed at him, or shots are being directed at him, or some shots are being fired at him, he's totally justifiable in returning gunfire.”
“If you start seeing, hearing, and perceiving gunfire, conversation is now going to take a backseat and you’re going to have to start doing some sort of action.”
Meanwhile, Prof. Patrick Oliver, Director of the Cedarville University Criminal Justice Program and former Cleveland Police Chief, told News 5 he's confident BCI will do a thorough investigation.
“It is in very good hands BCI has done a lot of this, they have capable investigators, so they’ll to a thorough complete investigation, Oliver said. "They’ll make recommendations to the Canton police department about what should be done administratively.”
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