Anaheim, CA – The Fullerton Police Department (FPD) has released bodycam footage from the officer-involved shooting of a 17-year-old girl who was armed with a replica handgun (video below).
The incident began at approximately 7 p.m. on July 5, when a uniformed, on-duty FPD officer spotted a vehicle traveling “at a high rate of speed” on the eastbound 91 Freeway, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release on July 9.
The officer was taking his K9 partner to a veterinarian for a medical procedure at the time.
When he attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the dark-colored SUV, the driver “intentionally collided with his police car,” FPD Lieutenant Jon Radus said in the video release.
The suspect, later identified as 17-year-old Hannah Linn Williams, then made “an abrupt U-turn into oncoming traffic, and came to a skidding stop, facing the wrong way on the freeway,” Lt. Radus explained.
The FPD officer immediately requested backup due to Williams’ erratic behavior, then exited his patrol vehicle to attempt to make contact with the suspect.
As he approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, he was confronted by Williams.
“The female was in a shooting stance – with both arms extended in front of her – pointing a gun directly at the officer,” Lt. Radus said. “This resulted in an officer-involved shooting.”
The officer immediately radioed that shots had been fired, bodycam footage showed.
“I got suspect down on the freeway,” he said. “I need medics please.”
The officer repeatedly ordered Williams not to move and to keep her hands visible.
The suspect complied with his commands to roll onto her stomach, as the officer told bystanders to stay away from the scene.
Another officer covered the suspect while the FPD officer checked the suspect’s vehicle to make sure there was no one else inside.
He then placed the wailing suspect into handcuffs, as she begged the officers to help her.
The second officer on scene had already recovered the weapon that Williams had dropped onto the ground, and informed the initial officer that it was a replica, the video showed.
The weapon was “nearly indistinguishable” from an actual firearm, Lt. Radus noted.
The officers then applied a tourniquet and a “chest seal” to the wounded suspect, Lt. Radus said.
Bodycam footage showed that she had gunshot wounds to her right upper leg and her chest.
Williams was rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Nearly 90 minutes after the incident occurred, Anaheim police received a 911 call from Williams’ father, who told the dispatcher that the teen had taken off with their rental vehicle.
He said she had been missing for over three hours, and that she “may have wanted to harm herself,” Lt. Radus said.
In the 911 recording, the suspect’s father also said that Williams was on medication for depression, and that he was concerned she could harm herself.
Fullerton Police Chief Bob Dunn explained that the officer involved in the incident has “police powers throughout the entire state – not just in in [his] respective jurisdiction.”
“He took action, which he not only had the authority, but the expectation and responsibility to do,” Chief Dunn noted. “The job of a police officer is often difficult and dangerous. Although we train and work hard to de-escalate volatile situations, officers must react – sometimes in a split second.”
“The decision to use force is not something we take lightly,” the chief continued. “It is truly tragic for all involved.”
The district attorney’s office is handling the ongoing investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting, The Orange County Register reported.
While the district attorney’s office investigates the officer’s potential criminal culpability, the Anaheim Police Department will determine whether or not Williams had committed a crime, KMBZ reported.
FPD will conduct an administrative investigation to determine whether the officer acted in accordance with department policy.
Williams’ family’s spokesperson, Reverend Jarrett Maupin, said that police and prosecutors are lying about the teen being in possession of a weapon, and that even if she was armed, the officer shouldn’t have opened fire because the gun was only a replica.
“We maintain that she was unarmed,” Maupin said during a press conference on July 9, according to the Orange County Register.
“A fake gun is a fake gun,” he declared.
Maupin alleged that the replica firearm was not found next to the teen’s body, and claimed that police didn’t find the weapon until they searched the inside of the rental vehicle Williams was driving.
Bodycam footage clearly showed the weapon lying on the ground next to Williams after she collapsed.
Family friend Magda Rojas said that there was no way Williams was armed with a “real gun” when she was shot, KTLA reported.
“Maybe a Mickey Mouse gun or something, but not a real gun,” Rojas said. “We don’t have no clue. We don’t have real answers.”
It is against the law to possess a replica handgun in the state of California, KCBS reported.
Her family said that the officer-involved shooting “appears to be another unjustified shooting of a young person of color.”
Williams' mother is Latina and her father is black, according to The Orange County Register.
Williams’ father, Benson Williams, has called on Rev. Al Sharpton to become involved in his daughter’s case, Heavy reported.
“We want Rev. Sharpton to shine a light on what happened here in Anaheim. We want to know why police felt the need to shoot and kill a 17-year-old unarmed teen girl,” he said in a statement prior to the bodycam footage being released. “We want the public to know, right away, how many times our daughter was shot and whether or not she was shot in the back.”
Williams’ sister, Nyla, has also reached out to California Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Joe Biden on Twitter.
“We need your help. My 17 yr sister was just shot and killed by the Fullerton police we have no answer we have been told several different things this happened Friday evening on the 91 here in Anaheim please please,” Nyla’s tweets read.
The family has authorized an independent autopsy, and has also asked California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office to have the state attorney general’s office investigate the officer-involved shooting.
“We cannot trust local police to investigate themselves,” Maupin told reporters.
Williams’ family has since retained civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who initially claimed that investigators didn’t recover the replica weapon until they searched the SUV three days after the incident, KTLA reported.
Bodycam footage showed that the officers seized the gun off of the ground moments after the shooting.
“We don’t believe that the weapon played any role in this incident,” Merritt said prior to the footage being released, according to KTLA. “Law enforcement has not indicated that the replica weapon played any role in this incident, and if it did it would have been captured on the bodycam footage.”
After the video was released, Merritt blasted investigators for not providing information about the circumstances of the confrontation to Williams’ family sooner.
"We learned today, as you probably learned, that Hannah was in a shooting stance at the time that the officer discharged his weapon," he said. "If they had known that from the beginning, that would have given them a bit more closure.”
You can watch bodycam footage of the officer’s encounter with Williams in the video below: