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caption: A screen capture of a video released on Thursday, February 20, 2020 showing the moments just before and after Federal Way police shot and killed Malik Williams.
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A screen capture of a video released on Thursday, February 20, 2020 showing the moments just before and after Federal Way police shot and killed Malik Williams.
Credit: Valley Independent Investigations Team

Video released of paraplegic man fatally shot by Federal Way police, family demands answers

An independent investigation team on Thursday released security footage that captured the death of Malik Williams, a 23-year-old Black man who was paraplegic.

Officers shot and killed him on Dec. 31.

WARNING: The following video contains graphic footage of a fatal officer-involved shooting.

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Video shows Federal Way Police shoot and kill a paraplegic man in a car, Dec. 31, 2019.

The video shows multiple officers approach the side of a vehicle, with their flashlights on Williams, who is seated in the front passenger seat. A woman is with him in the car. As more police vehicles approach the scene, officers open fire within an instant.

The Valley Independent Investigations Team, a group consisting of investigators from various King County police departments, is reviewing the circumstances surrounding shooting.

Eighty-four shell casings were collected at the scene, according to the Valley Independent Investigations Team. It remains unknown how many bullets were actually fired by the officers involved.

“This is disastrous and there’s no way our community is going to continue to accept the lawlessness of law enforcement officers not deescalating," said community organizer André Taylor during a press conference on Thursday. "We’re not going to stand for it anymore."

Taylor is the founder of Not This Time, an organization that works to reduce fatal police shootings, according to its website.

Others who spoke out during the media briefing included Williams’ stepfather, Marvin Phelps.

“Why would they shoot 86 times into the car if they did not mean to hurt him?" Phelps questioned. "That’s the point I’m trying to figure out. Can they be responsible for that?”

The shooting occurred in a parking lot at the Southridge House apartment complex in Federal Way, after police were called to the scene due to a noise complaint. A caller said they heard a woman yelling, a man’s voice, and the sound of a bang, according to a news release on the December incident.

Moments after police arrived on the scene, they radioed in that they had someone at gunpoint. Soon additional officers arrived, and broadcast that shots were fired and two officers had been wounded.

As a result of the shooting and subsequent ongoing investigation, seven officers were placed on administrative leave. However, the Valley Independent Investigations Team said that Williams opened fire on officers and that they recovered a black handgun at the scene.

But Taylor contends this isn't true.

“We’re disagreeing with this idea that he had a gun and shot at [police]," Taylor said. He added, the video released to the public was edited and was not the same video that Williams’ family viewed last week.

“I’m Amazed that they would try something like this, being that over 30 people have seen this video,” Taylor said. “[Police are] trying to hide something. They’re scared of the truth.”

David Leibman, spokesperson for the Valley Independent Investigations Team said via email that he was unsure of what Taylor was referring to, and that he needed to speak with Williams’ family to better understand what they believe was edited.

Leibman added that seldom do law enforcement investigators release the details of an active criminal investigation, but that in this case, more information was released in an effort to be transparent.

“The lead investigator has met with the family twice that I know of, and explained to them what we know so far,” Leibman wrote. He added that the Valley Independent Investigations Team is an independent team with a mission to “impartially gather facts and evidence in order to accurately determine what happened.”

He said once the investigation is complete, the findings will be reported to the King County Prosecutor's Office, and that there’s nothing else to share until that happens.

Taylor said, “everything seems to be covered up,” and that only a small part of the car Malik was in is shown in the footage. Taylor said he was able to see the car in the video he initially viewed, and that he saw two officers interacting with Williams before they opened fire.

“The video shows no stress or anything going on that would have made an officer feel that he was in danger for 86 shots to be fired into that car,” Taylor said.

Police said that they only learned Williams used a wheelchair after the shooting, and that the wheelchair sitting in the backseat of the car wasn’t visible through the car’s tinted windows.

Taylor speculated that Williams most likely explained that he was paraplegic during his initial conversation with officers at the scene.