Family of Kaileb Williams Contest Police Version Justifying Lethal Force
When police shot and killed Kaileb Williams, the initial report indicated the shooting was justified. That is no longer the case. The family has lawyered up with Datsopoulos, MacDonald & Lind and now it seems every aspect of what allegedly occurred is being called into question. Terance Perry, the family’s lawyer, is “calling it how he sees it” when describing the manner in which Kaileb was shot as ‘execution style’. Of course that’s part of the headline of the new article from the Missoulian, accompanied by a nicer picture of Kaileb smiling.
So what’s being contested? Everything. From the second link:
In an interview, Perry said the family has a markedly different story of what happened in the hour before Williams was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head.
They deny that the fiancee was ever held hostage or threatened by Williams. They wonder why the man’s mother was initially told he committed suicide. And they cannot understand why police did not remove him from the car by tasing, physical force or negotiation.
Strange. More from the article:
Inside the home, Williams reportedly attacked his mother and gave her a bloody nose before driving away in her car.
Attorney Perry said the mother did call police, but that it was his understanding that a bystander told authorities Williams had driven away from the house with his fiancee. He added that Williams was very close to his mother, who also lives in Missoula, and that he spent Christmas with her.
Perry said the mother did tell police that her son assaulted her, but that she was not interested in pressing charges from the assault or because he took her car.
Newell said the mother told dispatchers that her son might have a knife.
Not so, said the attorney.
“My understanding is that is entirely false. She did not say he had a knife,” Perry said.
This point should be fairly easy to confirm, considering conversations with 911 dispatch are recorded. If the police report says one thing, and the recorded conversation indicates the opposite, then there is definitely something amiss. Here’s more:
When Williams drove the wrong way up a ramp connecting Broadway and North Reserve Street, his car died, Newell said.
Perry said after the car broke down on the ramp, the vehicle was surrounded by law enforcement vehicles, and in his opinion Williams was effectively in custody, posing no further flight risk.
Officer Kelly was close enough to the car to speak with Williams, but Newell said it was dark outside and officers couldn’t see clearly into the car, although the girlfriend appeared to be lying down and was yelling for help.
Newell said officers attempted to break the car windows to rescue her, but were unsuccessful.
Perry, on the other hand, said his current understanding is that no officer made an attempt to break any of the windows. He said the fiancee denies that she was yelling for help in any way or that she was in fear for her life.
Newell said Williams had the woman in a “lethal stranglehold” when he was shot.
“I’m a little confused about their statement. Somehow they can see she is being strangled or held down, but they say it’s too dark to see if there is a weapon,” Perry said Saturday. “They all carry flashlights, most of the police cars I see around Missoula have searchlights. They could have lit that vehicle up like a Christmas tree if they wanted to.”
Perry said police never saw Williams wielding a weapon, and there was no evidence that he had a weapon.
“There’s an attempt to construct a justification for the use of fatal force here,” he said.
Perry said the fiancee denies that Williams was attempting to strangle her when Officer Kelly fired the shot that killed him. He declined to name the girlfriend, but an obituary for Williams lists his fiancee as Rita Daniel.
“He was holding her head down because he was afraid the police were going to shoot at her,” Perry said.
There are more troubling questions arising from this incident. Officer Kelly allegedly fired his gun into the driver’s side of the car. Even if the suspect was actively strangling his girlfriend, the shot could have easily injured and/or killed the girlfriend. There is also the fact that the mother was in one of the police cruisers during the chase and was allegedly told her son committed suicide:
Perry said another officer was transporting Williams’ mother back to her home when the chase began, and he engaged in it. The cruiser, with the mother in the back seat, arrived at the scene and the mother was next to the Montana Lil’s casino on the other side of North Reserve Street.
Perry said the mother’s cellphone was in the vehicle Williams was driving, but that law enforcement did not attempt to call the phone, or use the mother to help talk with Williams.
“Law enforcement could have asked Kaileb to allow the fiancee to leave the vehicle,” he said.
After the shooting happened, the mother went inside the casino. Perry said he spoke with an employee of the casino who told him that the civilian coroner from Sanders County and a law enforcement officer eventually came into the casino and told the mother her son had committed “suicide with a firearm.”
This unfortunate incident of police using lethal force is going to be heavily scrutinized. Hopefully there is enough objective evidence, like footage from dash-cams in the police cruisers and the 911 conversation, to piece together what really happened.
If aspects of what allegedly happened have been constructed to justify the use of lethal force, I hope that comes out and the appropriate steps are taken to make sure Missoula police understand when they can and can’t shoot to kill.
The lawyers are already trying this case in the court of public opinion, and the Missoulian will be more than happy to amplify any controversial developments. I don’t think it’s helpful at all, at this point in the investigation, for Perry to use the phrase ‘execution style’ to describe this shooting, but of course he knows that sensational description will make for a juicy headline.
The Sheriff’s department has this investigation, in addition to dealing with another nearly lethal use of force by a deputy less than 24 hours after this incident.
I’ll be following this case as more information becomes available.