Father of out-of-town student slain by NYC stray bullet says son was passionate about ending gun violence

Wes Parnell, New York Daily News

The father of an out of town college student slain by a stray bullet in Brooklyn said his son had dedicated his life to care for marginalized communities.

Ethan Williams, 20, a sophomore film student at the University of Indiana who wanted to tell people’s stories to spark change, was killed by a stray bullet in Brooklyn early Saturday. His father said the victim was deeply concerned about gun violence and hoped to change society with his work.

“Whoever shot him, Ethan loved that kid and Ethan would 100% forgive that kid for shooting him,” said Jason Williams, his father. “We raised him right so that he could go into the world and help those people. (That stray bullet) not only took him from us, but from the people that need him the most.”

Williams was on a “dream trip," with a few friends after becoming obsessed with visiting the city after watching the “Spider-Man” movie as a child.

He was hanging out near his Airbnb on Eldert St. in Bushwick around 2:30 a.m., just a day after arriving, when a stray bullet tore through his chest.

“He was feeling stressed out and wanted to get away for a little bit. He did all the COVID precautions, he paid for wifi and he sent me photos of him doing homework on the plane,” the father said said.

“He just wanted to go to New York, skate, take some cool pictures and come back to school.”

Medics rushed the young filmmaker, one of three siblings, to Wyckoff Medical Center but doctors were unable to save him.

Williams spent his senior year of High School working for the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council in Indianapolis and was an active liaison, fighting for the rights of underserved communities, particularly those plagued by crime.

“He wasn’t just a midwestern kid raised on a farm. He was very concerned that poverty and disenfranchisement and people being marginalized were acting out what they felt like they knew to act out, many growing up without parents or in gangs," said Jason. “Ethan loved those people. He was nonjudgmental. He wanted to hear their stories, that was why he was a film student.”

Alba, a neighbor who lives next door to the Airbnb where Williams was shot, came home Friday and saw Williams and his skater friends having good fun on the stoop.

“They were sitting there yesterday when we came home and they were very nice. And then at 2:30 a.m., the shots rang out. And I see the kid on the top step,” Alba said. “They (EMTs) were really trying to resuscitate him, to make him come alive...I think they knew he wasn’t going to make it.”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett echoed the victim’s father, saying that Williams really did care about the least served in his communities.

“Ethan was a part of our first Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council class, a group of high school students from across Marion County that explored critical issues like homelessness, hunger, and gun violence,” Hogsett said in a statement to local news station WRTV. “These are issues that Ethan was passionate about, and we owe it to him to continue these important conversations.”

Jason said his son, who was an honors student, wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, even if he was talking to the mayor.

“The mayor of Indiana is talking about Ethan today, not because he was just some kid but because he knew him. I’m sure my kid pushed back on Mayor Hogsett saying, ‘We need to do better.’ That’s the kid the bullet took out.”

The NYPD are working with Williams' parents to transport his body back to Indiana.

Cops continued the investigation Sunday morning, searching for surveillance video and questioning neighbors. There have been arrests.

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