CANTON – A city police officer shot and killed James Williams minutes after midnight on New Year's Day.
Williams, 46, was repeatedly firing an AR-15 into the air in celebration when he was shot. He leaves behind a wife and six children.
Here's what we know now about the Jan. 1 shooting:
What the investigators are saying
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation for the Canton Police Department.
The initial news release Saturday said Williams was armed when police responded at 12:06 a.m. to a report of gunfire at his house in the 2300 block of of 10th Street SW. The release said: "... the officer, who was outside his vehicle, confronted a subject that began shooting a firearm. The officer, in fear for his safety, fired his duty weapon at the subject and struck him."
Police haven't commented beyond the initial statement but body camera footage released Wednesday shed more light into what happened.
The officer radioed his location outside the 10th Street home and said he heard shots fired. He saw a man's head — later identified as Williams — behind a 6-foot high wooden fence.
The officer went up to the porch and saw the man put away a rifle.
Moments later, dozens of shots were fired from behind the fence on the side of the house. There were flashes and smoke. The gunfire was aimed skyward. Nearly 30 shots fired in rapid succession.
The officer returns to the fence and draws his service weapon. He fires at least four times.
Williams was struck.
The officer yells, "Shots fired! Shots fired!"
Then louder, he yells: "Police! Get down now! Police! Get down now!"
The officer backs into the street and yells into his radio, "CanCom! Shots fired. Send us everybody!"
Williams later died in Aultman Hospital.
What the family is saying?
James Williams' wife Marquetta said she joined her husband and other relatives in firing the rifle as did other neighbors. She and the others went back inside while her husband stayed to shoot the rifle more.
Firing a weapon in that manner is illegal in the city.
She said her husband fired four shots in the air and turned to follow her inside. Then told her, "I've been shot."
The footage showed Williams fired far more shots.
His wife said the officer did not announce his presence before firing his gun, and she didn't know her husband had been shot until he turned to come inside. Then she saw a splatter of blood across his chest.
"He didn't deserve to die like this, at all," his daughter, Ja'Lia Williams said at a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night.
Inside the home
The four-minute body camera video ends after more officers arrived on scene and the family is ordered out of their home.
Marquetta Williams told officers that her husband has been shot and he was bleeding in the living room.
The officers enter the home, guns drawn, and find James Williams on the floor. An officer discovers multiple firearms and another officer finds body armor behind a couch, the footage showed.
"His babies didn't deserve to see that coming into the new year," said Sierra Mason, a community activist.
Mason and others organized a candlelight vigil outside the family's home on Wednesday night.
Nearly 60 people shared grief and their outrage over the death of Williams, whom friends called Roe. They also released dozens of balloons into the night sky and chanted such phrases as "Justice for Roe!"
Many who spoke demanded police accountability and some called for the officer's arrest. "We're mourning another Black man," Mason said.
She added the officer shot, "senselessly at a Black family for doing the same thing his white friends were doing."
The officer has been placed on administrative leave. The officer's identity has not been released.
"It makes me hurt," Marquetta Williams said following the vigil. "(The officer) got to go home to his family. My husband didn't."
Don't rush to judgment
The Canton Repository contacted Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and law enforcement training experts after the release of the body camera video for their reactions to the Jan. 1 confrontation.
All expressed sympathy for the family.
But Yost called James Williams' action that night, "stupid and extraordinarily dangerous," in Thursday's story.
"When the bullet leaves the gun and goes up into the air, it's going to hit something. Maybe it's going to hit a roof or the ground. Maybe it's going to hit someone in the head and kill somebody," Yost said.
He said the footage does raise questions regarding the circumstance of the shooting but asked people to reserve judgment until more facts are gathered.
"Regardless of whether this was legally proper or not, any death is a tragedy and I can't even imagine the grief and sorrow for this man's family," Yost said. "My heart goes out to them."
Tim Dimoff, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., in Akron, said he believed the officer had to make a split-second decision. He also said the officer was not required to announce his presence.
"And it's not feasible for an officer involved in a shooting to always be able to verbalize before they respond in a matter of milliseconds when someone is firing a gun," Dimoff told The Canton Repository.
A protest has been planned for 3 p.m. Saturday — a week after the shooting — outside the Canton police station at 221 3rd St. SW in downtown Canton.
Reach Benjamin Duer at 330-580-8567 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article originally appeared on The Repository: Agents investigate the police shooting of James Williams in Canton