Canton, OH – The family of a man who was fatally shot by police while firing an AR-15 into the air on New Year’s Day is suing the City of Canton and the officer involved in the shooting.
The family of 46-year-old James Williams held a press conference outside the Canton Police Department (CPD) headquarters on March 16 after filing the lawsuit, WEWS reported.
“It’s time for change,” his widow, Marquetta Williams, told reporters. “It’s time for the people to have more power and say so over those we govern as our protectors. It’s time we channel our pains and losses to change for quality. Time for all to be held accountable for our actions equally, no matter the color of our skin tone.”
“Black lives matter as does all lives,” she added. “Black lives are truly unprotected and unrespected. And it is time we stand and fight back and demand our respect. So, I know I will fight today, tomorrow and every day until I have no breath left. Because my family today, may be yours tomorrow!”
The series of events leading to James Williams’ death began at 12:06 a.m. on Jan. 1, when the CPD received a report of gunfire at 2307 10th St. SW, The Repository reported.
CPD officer Robert Huber responded to the scene and was outside his vehicle when he encountered the armed suspect, Canton Police Chief Jack Angelo said, according to ABC News.
Police said Officer Huber “confronted” James Williams, who then “began shooting a firearm,” The Repository reported.
“The officer, in fear for his safety, fired his duty weapon at the subject and struck him,” the agency said in a press release.
James Williams was on the opposite side of a six-foot-tall fence when he was shot, ABC News reported.
Bodycam footage showed Officer Huber yelling, “Shots fired! Shots fired! Police! Get down now!” after the shooting, according to the news outlet.
James Williams was transported to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Marquetta Williams said she was holding a glass door when the shooting occurred, and that one of the bullets struck it and shattered it, The Repository reported.
She said she watched her bleeding husband stagger back inside their home, where he died in front of their children, according to the lawsuit.
“After reaching the West side of Mr. Williams’ residence, near the enclosed patio, without announcing his presence and identity, without any warning or command to cease and desist, without any attempt at de-escalation, or without calling CPD dispatch for backup, Officer Huber willfully and indiscriminately discharged his service firearm multiple times into the wooden fence at Mr. Williams, striking him in the chest,” the lawsuit declared, according to The Repository.
Marquetta Williams alleged in the filing that Officer Huber “acted unreasonably, negligently, recklessly, wantonly, willfully, knowingly, intentionally, and with deliberate indifference to the safety and rights of Mr. Williams, when he used deadly force against Williams and failed to secure timely medical assistance or to perform resuscitative measures on Williams following the shooting.”
The lawsuit included claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, deliberate medical indifference to medical needs, wrongful death, and excessive force, The Repository reported.
Marquetta Williams is seeking compensatory and special damages.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (CBI) is handling the ongoing investigation into the fatal shooting, The Repository reported.
Investigative findings will be forwarded to the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration of criminal charges.
Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei said the city has been made aware of the lawsuit, The Repository reported.
“Because this is now a pending case, it is not appropriate to comment on it in any extensive manner,” Bernabei said.
The mayor said the city is waiting for the CBI investigation to be completed and said those findings will be used by both the Stark Grand Jury and the city’s internal affairs investigators.
“Both of these investigative pieces are needed to factually respond to the allegations made in the complaint,” Bernabei said, according to The Repository.
“Our prayers go out to the family of Mr. Williams,” the mayor added. “The loss of a husband and father and friend under any circumstance is heartbreaking. We sympathize with the family for their loss.”