Family of Kaileb Williams Contest Police Version Justifying Lethal Force

by lizard

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.

  1. Craig Moore

    You wrote: “… the initial report indicated the shooting was justified. That is no longer the case.

    Really? The initial police report no longer indicates such an outcome? Or have you appointed yourself as judge and jury and decided that the shooting was not justified? Now, in addition to the lawyers spinning the shooting, that you swallowed hook line and sinker, did you notice the obit? Nothing mentioned in either account of his being on probation for criminal possession of dangerous drugs. Could that be why he switched to legal spice? By the way, you seem to have no understanding of how muscles clench when an electric current is passed through a body. Tasing someone who has their arm wrapped around another’s neck may have risked snapping her neck or collapsing her windpipe. The girlfriend’s initial statements to the police have not changed. They are recorded.

    This is a tragedy all the way around. Drug users such as yourself should look in the mirror and ask, “just who is responsible for setting events in motion that come to a tragic end?” It is quite understandable as to why you hate law enforcement when they impinge on your recreation and the illegal food chain necessary to support it. No wonder that you yourself have purchased a gun for protection as you have freely admitted. If you ever find yourself pulling the trigger perhaps you will also enjoy the scrutiny and smears that you apply to law enforcement. The facts and the truth be damned. No need to wait before judgement applied as you have so clearly demonstrated.

    • Steve W

      Craig Moore,

      You are a loser. And a bad sport. And a whiner.

      Grow up Learn to be civil Quit blaming your failures on others.

      Thank you.

      • lizard19

        I’d like to see Craig deliver his anti-drug moralizing in person to those nice people at the man-camps in the oil fields. maybe he can explain to them the increases in meth and heroin available along the I-90 corridor is making it more dangerous for local law enforcement.

        I’d also like to remind Craig that someone who allegedly hates the police probably wouldn’t write posts like this one and this one.

        I can only speculate as to why Craig exhibits short-term memory problems.

  2. JC

    Too many questions and inconsistencies.

    “Newell said Williams was intoxicated and had reportedly used spice, a synthetic version of marijuana, for a few days.”

    How did Newell come to the conclusion that Kaileb was intoxicated? And who is responsible for the “reportedly?” Had he used spice during the time right before the incident? Kaileb’s mother and fiancee’s statements in the press articles don’t support this. How about a toxicology report before we come to conclusions here.

    There’s a lot of fabrication in the press story that doesn’t jibe with the facts as I know them (and I know more than I’m willing to say publicly right now), or as the family has released through their lawyer.

    “They made several attempts to break the car windows”

    Police have metal bars in their cruisers for this purpose. The police also could have shot out a back window and gained access without endangering either passenger. The article says they spent 5 minutes in conversation. That’s plenty of time to consider options and gain access to the car without resorting to a head shot that could endanger Kaileb’s fiancee.

    My biggest problem with the Missoulian’s stories is the ability of the Police dept. to setup a story line, and get it reported in the press before many facts are known, and contradictory statements are considered by the reporter. People like Craig will have a knee-jerk deference to the “official report” even if it is full of holes and contradictions.

    The initial Missoulian story using only the police report served its single purpose: to set the stage for exonerating the policeman who shot and killed Kaileb, before the whole story is known.

    We need to have an inquest on this shooting. Having the Sheriff’s Department investigate the Police Department while the Police Department investigates the Sheriff’s Department (for the Evaro shooting) is just the wrong thing to have happening in Missoula right now.

  3. Eric

    What a violent place Missoula has become !

    With the Police shooting, there will be an inquest, and it’ll be interesting to see what really happened.

  4. djinn&tonic

    Don’t worry, It’s already been declared justified, however, the city will pay.

  5. Steve W

    The first story out wins.

    Humans are hard wired like that. We know what happened. No need to investigate.

  6. James Maxie

    liz will always the biggest hero that ever came out of Missoula.

  7. steve kelly

    Missoula becoming like everywhere else. Bozeman too. One more thing to worry about, especially if you’re in police crosshairs for being poor, homeless, mentally ill, young, non-white, and a growing list of other petty violations that just might get you killed.

    This story caught my eye.

    “In less than eight years, Miami Police, Miami-Dade Police, and Miami Beach Police officers have used their Tasers more than 3,000 times. At least 11 men have died after being tasered by cops during that same period, including five in the past 16 months. On average, at least one person per day is tasered by police.

    Some of those tasered were violent criminals. But most were unarmed, many posed no threat to police, and some were suspected of minor infractions such as loitering or skateboarding. In one instance, Miami-Dade Police shocked a 6-year-old boy. In another, cops tasered a 12-year-old girl for playing hooky.

    Even more troubling than the sheer frequency of these taserings is how they disproportionately affect the poor, homeless, and mentally ill. Unlike their white-collar counterparts, shoplifters are regularly subjected to potentially fatal force. Mentally ill Miamians, meanwhile, are being shocked repeatedly for infractions they often don’t fully understand.”

  8. I liked that television show “The Wire” and I know it is fiction based on the experiences of the writer, David Simon, but it portrayed cops and criminals as merely the same people working opposite sides of the fence. The only difference was that when cops broke the law, they were highly unlikely to be punished.

    That may be art exposing life as it really is.

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