Lawsuit: South Carolina officers shot unarmed man 19 times
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An unarmed man who was chased and tackled by police in South Carolina was shot 17 times in the back by officers as he lay on the ground, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family.
The officers were trying to arrest Waltki Williams last Dec. 10 after his estranged girlfriend called 911 saying he had pointed a gun at her car at the Sumter Mall, police said at the time.
Williams drove off, but wrecked a short way down the road. He threw an unknown object out a window and started to run, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed Friday by Williams’ sister, Tomekia Kind, against the city of Sumter and its police force.
Several officers tackled Williams and stepped back before at least three of them fired two dozen shots. Williams was struck by 19 bullets, said attorney Carter Elliott.
“I don’t know if it gets any more horrible than officers standing over an unarmed man shooting him,” Elliott said Monday. He had investigators take pictures of Williams’ bullet-ridden body before it was cremated.
Elliott said Kind has seen police video of her brother’s shooting and was shocked. The video has not been released publicly as the State Law Enforcement Division is still investigating the killing.
Sumter Police spokeswoman Tonyia McGirt said later Monday that the police agency hasn’t been served with the lawsuit. She also said releasing any specific information about the shooting would be inappropriate given the state’s ongoing investigation. Nonetheless, she said the police department denies the allegations made in the suit.
In a news release issued shortly after the shooting in December, McGirt wrote that “there was a brief struggle and then an exchange of gunfire.”
Little information has been released about the shooting. Carter said Williams was black. The race and names of the officers haven’t been made public.
State police have been reluctant to release police shooting videos in South Carolina until cases are closed, even though First Amendment lawyers said there is no exemption to their release under the state’s open records law.
They have made exceptions when the videos don’t show the shooting itself, such as releasing dashboard camera footage of the traffic stop of Walter Scott, who was shot and killed after running away from a traffic stop in April 2015 by an officer in North Charleston. The former officer is awaiting a second trial on a murder charge.
The Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request Monday for any video footage of Williams’ shooting. State police did not immediately respond to that request.
Elliott has not seen the video, but plans to subpoena the city of Sumter and state investigators. The lawsuit does not ask for specific damages.
Solicitor Chip Finney will decide if the officers face charges. He said Monday he has not received the case file from state investigators and had no comment about the shooting or the lawsuit.
About 50 people marched in Sumter asking for justice about two weeks after the shooting.
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