A wrongful death lawsuit alleges that an unarmed black man was shot in the back 17 times by police officers in South Carolina after he was chased down and tackled to the ground.
Officers in Sumter were trying to arrest 35-year-old Waltki Williams on the night of December 10 after his estranged girlfriend called 911 saying he had pointed a gun at her car outside a local mall and she was afraid to leave the shopping center.
Williams sped off in a red SUV with police pursuing but crashed into two vehicles, hurled an unknown object out the window, then fled on foot.
According to the lawsuit filed by Williams’ sister Tomekia Kind against the city of Sumter and its police force, several officers tackled Williams and stepped back before at least three of them fired two dozen shots.
Williams was struck by 19 bullets, of them 17 in the back, said attorney Carter Elliott.
‘I don’t know if it gets any more horrible than officers standing over an unarmed man shooting him,’ Elliott said Monday. He had investigators take pictures of Williams’ bullet-ridden body before it was cremated.
Elliott said Kind has seen police video of her brother’s shooting and was shocked. The video has not been released publicly as the State Law Enforcement Division is still investigating the killing.
Sumter Police spokeswoman Tonyia McGirt said later Monday that the police agency hasn’t been served with the lawsuit.
She also said releasing any specific information about the shooting would be inappropriate given the state’s ongoing investigation. Nonetheless, she said the police department denies the allegations made in the suit.
The station WYFF4 reported that Williams’ girlfriend had been trying in vain to break up with him for two months by the time she called 911 at around 9.30pm on December 10, telling the dispatcher her estranged boyfriend threatened her with a gun at the Sumter Mall.
In a news release issued shortly after the police-involved shooting, McGirt wrote that ‘there was a brief struggle and then an exchange of gunfire.’
The newly filed lawsuit, however, alleges that Williams had no weapon and makes no mention of an exchange of gunfire with police, reported NBC News.
The race and names of the officers who played a role in the incident haven’t been made public. They were placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
‘This is a tragedy for everyone involved,” Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark III said in a statement in December. ‘This incident shows the devastating, far-reaching effects of domestic violence on individuals, families, law enforcement, the Sumter community and the state as a whole.’
The Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request Monday for any video footage of Williams’ shooting. State police did not immediately respond to that request.
Elliott has not seen the video, but plans to subpoena the city of Sumter and state investigators. The lawsuit does not ask for specific damages.
Solicitor Chip Finney will decide if the officers face charges. He said Monday he has not received the case file from state investigators and had no comment about the shooting or the lawsuit.
Williams had a criminal record dating back to at least 2013 that included two convictions for stalking and several minor motor vehicle offenses.
He also had been accused of trying to sell a stolen car and entering a bank with intent to steal, but both those charges were eventually dismissed.
About 50 people participated in a peaceful march in Sumter demanding justice for Waltki William about two weeks after the shooting.