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Willowbrook Community Doubt the District Attorney Will File Charges Against the Deputy Who Fatally Shot a Black Man in the Back

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Mother and father of Fred Williams at a press conference.

Stephen Oduntan, Staff

Mid October, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Fred Williams in Willowbrook, prompting days of protests and conflicting accounts of the moment that led to his death. Amid the demonstrations, one notable chant rippled through the crowds: “Release the bodycam.”

Now, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has done just that.

Sheriff’s officials released an 11-minute briefing late last Friday that included body camera footage, security video and radio communications from the incident. The disclosure came after the Williams family privately reviewed the footage with the captain of the Century station, where the deputy was assigned.

The newly released video from Oct. 16 shows Williams, 25, fleeing the sheriff’s deputy up a driveway and then jumping over a fence with a gun in his hand before he was shot. During the incident, the deputy broadcasted over the radio that Williams “pointed 417 at me,” referring to the firearm.

Toni Jaramilla, a civil rights activist and attorney, said the video revealed that Black lives don’t matter to the deputy who was chasing Williams on foot.

“The video shows that Fred was unjustly shot at by the deputy,” Jaramilla told L.A. Focus in a telephone interview on Monday. “From looking at the camera footage, Fred was not pointing a weapon at the deputy. He was jumping over the fence when he was shot. And it’s consistent with the autopsy report that says he was shot in the back.”

The Sheriff’s Department said homicide investigators recovered a semiautomatic handgun at the scene.

A day after the incident, the Sheriff’s Department said Williams “engaged the deputy by pointing his firearm at him.”

But a summary of the incident posted on the Sheriff’s Department’s website Friday appeared to walk that back, saying “the deputy rounded the corner and encountered [Williams], gun in hand and a deputy involved shooting occurred.”

The coroner’s office has not yet completed the full autopsy report but has determined that Williams died by a “gunshot wound of the back,” according to its online records.

The slain man’s father Fred Williams Jr. said he was angry.

“We all know what’s going on in these streets. We’ve been watching it on the news every day. It’s coldblooded. They murdered my son. I can’t fathom the words to explain it other than it’s heartbreaking,” said Williams Jr., struggling to suppress raw emotions. 

The Williams family and activists are demanding that criminal charges be filed. Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, called on Jackie Lacey, the district attorney to charge the deputy involved in the fatal shooting with murder “just as any [civilian] would’ve been charged for shooting someone in the back.”

Still, activists and the Willowbrook community remain more pessimistic than optimistic about the District Attorney’s Office filing criminal charges against the deputy. Lacey, say critics, has a long history of not prosecuting police officers who kill civilians.

“We have no confidence in Jackie Lacey, and we have no confidence in the criminal justice system. But it is our job to organize and bring pressure on the system to the extent that we get justice,” Smith said.

Smith explained that he wanted to see a more robust civilian control of law enforcement agencies and officers, who he says abuse their authority and answer to no one but themselves.

“We want community control. We want the sheriff’s department under the democratic control of the community. An all civilian control board with absolute authority over the sheriff’s department. Only democracy will bring accountability,” Smith said.


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