The widow of an Ohio man shot and killed by a police officer on New Year’s Day wants justice after she said her husband was gunned down without warning during their annual celebratory gunfire ritual as the calendar turned over to the next year.
Marquetta Williams told the Canton Repository that the incident occurred at their 10th Street SW home just minutes after her family rang in the new year.
The woman told the newspaper that her husband James Williams had been firing off celebratory gunshots with his AR-15 skyward into the air in their backyard — a tradition for people in their neighborhood.
Her husband fired four shots in the air total, Marquetta Williams says. When he turned around to follow his wife back into the house, where she had been standing only a foot away, he said, “I’ve been shot.”
“My husband and I both went out there to shoot guns in the air like everybody does to celebrate,” Williams explained.
The widow told reporters that the 46-year-old was behind a 6-foot wooden privacy fence, making it almost impossible to see in or out. Williams said her husband was unaware police were on the other side of their fence and maintained the man was not firing at authorities.
“Out of the blue, he said he got shot, he got hit,” Williams explained. “I don’t know where it came from. Nobody said anything. They didn’t say, ‘Police.’ They didn’t say, ‘Freeze.’ They didn’t say, ‘Drop your weapon.’ They just shot him. I could see the blood splattering across his shirt. He collapsed in the living room.”
Williams said she called 911 but instead was met with “30-something officers with guns pointing at us, telling us to get down and come out of the house with our hands up.”
The father was taken to Aultman Hospital, where he later died.
Canton police said in a press release, “The officer, who was outside of 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.”
However, body camera footage released on Wednesday, Jan. 5, confirmed Williams’ claims her husband was shot without warning.
In the clip, the shooting officer, whose name has not been released, hears the shots, draws his weapon, walks towards the tall fence, and blindly fires at least four times through the fence. He never identified himself or communicated with the victim.
The video then shows another officer taking cover behind a cruiser and yelling, “Show me your (expletive) hands” Williams stepped onto the home’s front porch.
The officer who fired then yelled, “Everyone on the ground. Out here, on the sidewalk, on the ground.” Marquetta Williams and several others followed.
At a vigil, the widow said, “It makes me hurt. [The officer] got to go home to his family. My husband didn’t.”
Those in the community were left outraged. Activist Sierra Mason called it a double standard that the officer shot “senselessly at a Black family for doing the same thing his white friends were doing.”
An investigation is ongoing, and the officer has since been placed on administrative leave.
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