"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is a legal hurdle he can't leap, and therefore he is not charging Seattle police officer Ian Birk with a felony in the shooting death of Seattle woodcarver John T. Williams last year, King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg said at a press conference today. (Police announced today, however, Birk will be disciplined - fired, most likely) A jury would be compelled to find Birk not guilty because of state law, which requires prosecutors to prove Birk acted with malice, Satterberg said. Additionally, under the 1986 statute, he can't file charges when a police officer makes an arguably "good faith" mistake, he insisted.
Law aside, the shooting "is troubling to me," said Satterberg. The officer made a series of errors, walking quickly up to Williams, "closing the gap between him and the man with the knife. The officer chose not to back up . . . to create a safer distance."
"It appears to me and many others that there were many options available to this officer" other than to shoot and kill. (He received more than 1,200 e-mails urging him to prosecute Birk, Satterberg said).
"Anyone who has watched the dash cam video is troubled by . . . the short period of time" (about 4 seconds) it took for Birk to approach and shoot, he added.
The state would have to prove Birk was really not in danger, "that he was not being honest" about his fears. That would mean disproving what the officer said he was thinking at the time.
To prosecute Birk, Satterberg said, he "would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt [Birk] acted with evil intent. We have no proof of this."
Birk, 27, shot Williams, 50, last August in downtown Seattle. The two-year officer has been on paid administrative leave since. An inquest jury last month found the shooting questionable and a firearms review board decided it was not justified.
Police Chief John Diaz apologized to Williams' family at a separate news conference where he announced a firearms review final finding that the shooting was not justified and Williams did not pose a serious threat to Birk. The cop could be fired or face other disciplinary action, in a review to be completed by mid-March, Diaz said.