Remembering James T. Williams, Seattle Woodcarver Killed

A friend shared with me the song “Woodcarver”  from A Tribe Called Red about the unjustified shooting death of James T. Williams. As I didn’t see much on about the incident, though it was well-known to many of us involved, I thought it worthwhile to share, along with some related content, to act as an online memorial of sorts for Williams and the lack of responsibility his shooter, Ian Birk faced, thanks to the protections afforded actors of the criminals justice system.

August 30th, 2010. Seattle, Washington. Amateur woodcarver James T. Williams, 50-years-old, walked across the street. Seconds later he was dead. A man known to subsist on money stolen from those in the area had put five bullets into his body.

Video showed the triggerman approaching Williams. Multiple witnesses stated that Williams had not threatened anyone. Yet the killer walked free. Not because he was never caught, but because he wore a badge. His name is Ian Birk, and at the time of the shooting, he was employed at the Seattle police outfit.

The outcry was immediate.

Birk was placed on leave. He was a given a paid vacation for unjustly taking the life of another, who it turned out, wasn’t even facing Birk at the time of the shooting, and who likely never heard Birk bark orders at him since he was deaf, and who may of had the 3″ blade of his knife closed. Williams was no threat. Clearly Birk’s own actions were out of line. His claims that Willimas had a “very stern, very serious, very confrontational look on his face” doesn’t justify his use of deadly force.

A month of the shooting, a preliminary finding agreed, concluding that the shooting was without merit. Birk was ordered to turn in his badge and gun.

After being on paid leave for almost six months, an internal police board concluded that Birk had no “probable cause to believe the suspect if not apprehended posed a threat of serious harm to the officer or a threat of physical harm to others.” Rather than be fired, Birk resigned.

Yet, despite the fact that an internal police board said, in no uncertain terms, that the shooting was “unjustified and outside of policy, tactics and training,” Birk was never charged. Dan Satterberg, the local district attorney said Birk, as a police employee, couldn’t be charged with a homicide unless there’s evidence of malice or bad faith. Specifically, the legislation, RCW 9A.16.040, states that, “A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable.”

Those employed at the Department of Justice (an outfit that should be listed next to the dictionary definition of “misnomer”) said much the same – that Birk wouldn’t be charged as it was impossible to say whether Birk acted with malice and without good faith.

Such is the norm for legislation – applying one set of rules to police employees and their ilk, and another to those deemed subjects.

As William Grigg astutely pointed-out:

Were a sanctified personage in a police uniform to be killed by a Mundane who displayed no malice, Satterberg would probably find the motivation, and summon the necessary creativity, to prosecute the case.

A year after Williams was killed, Birk’s former employer – the corporation known as the “City of Seattle” gave his family 1,500,000-FRNs. Is that justice? A man kills someone and then his former crew takes money from those in the area to give to the victim’s family?

To reiterate – Birk initiated force. He took the life of Williams. Even his own colleagues agreed. Yet he faced no ramifications because he wore a badge. That shows just how perverted the “justice system” is, and just why it’s so dangerous to grant a group of people the “right” to create, interpret and apply the rules by which we live.

So where’s Birk nowadays? Working for another police outfit perhaps? I looked around online for a bit but couldn’t find his whereabouts. If you know, please do share that info with others. I wonder if he’s felt remorse for his actions. Perhaps he’d like to share his thoughts and come clean.

The Williams incident caused people in Seattle, and those aware of the incident, to come together, to act together against perceived injustices. Just one example, at the totem erected in to honor the memory of Williams, Tim Sage of Seattle Cop Block encourages those present to film the police for maximum transparency, and to safeguard their rights and those of their neighbors.

Seattle Police Review on Ian Birk Shooting of James T Williams

Pete Eyre

Pete Eyre is co-founder of As an advocate of peaceful, consensual interactions, he seeks to inject a message of complete liberty and self-government into the conversation of police accountability. Eyre went to undergrad and grad school for law enforcement, then spent time in DC as an intern at the Cato Institute, a Koch Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, Directer of Campus Outreach at the Institute for Humane Studies, Crasher-in-Chief at Bureaucrash, and as a contractor for the Future of Freedom Foundation. In 2009 he left the belly of the beast and hit the road with Motorhome Diaries and later co-founded Liberty On Tour. He spent time in New Hampshire home, and was involved with Free Keene, the Free State Project and The Daily Decrypt.