James Williams died in front of his wife and young children
CANTON, Ohio, March 31, 2023 — Canton, Ohio police officer, Robert Huber, used excessive force and the City of Canton failed to properly train its officers, leading to the sniper-style police shooting death of an unsuspecting Canton resident at his home on New Year’s Eve 2021, according to a complaint filed last week in Ohio federal court. The lawsuit, filed by leading civil rights lawyers Bobby DiCello and Ken Abbarno of DiCello Levitt on behalf of the family of James Williams, also names the City of Canton and police department supervisors as defendants, alleging that they endorsed an unwritten “shoot first” policy and failed to properly train their officers, which contributed to Williams’s death.
On January 1, 2021, Williams, a 46-year-old Black man, was celebrating the New Year at home with his wife and their three young children. As part of the celebration, Williams, from a porch behind his property’s privacy fence, partook in the well-known New Year’s Eve custom of firing his rifle harmlessly into the air. Huber, driving near Williams’s home and aware of the New Year’s Eve custom, heard the shots, approached the house, and exited his vehicle to look through a window, where he saw Williams putting away his rifle. After returning to his car, Huber again heard celebratory gunshots coming from near the porch. This time he approached the privacy fence with his gun drawn, aimed into the fence, and without identifying himself or giving warning, fired multiple shots in Williams’s general direction, striking him in the chest and shattering the home’s glass patio door. A bloody Williams staggered into his home where he collapsed in front of his horrified wife and children, later dying at a local hospital. Only after Huber had already shot Williams did he identify himself as a police officer.
“In no jurisdiction should any law enforcement officer peer through a fence and take aim without first trying to de-escalate a situation,” said DiCello, lead counsel for the family of James Williams. “After Officer Huber shot through the fence, he made no effort to provide medical care to James. Instead, he ran from the scene and into the street near his car, not knowing who he shot. There he waited for other officers to arrive. So another Black man has lost his life, and in a terrible way: on the floor, covered in blood, in front of his wife and young kids. These are the memories they will have now. And no one in the Canton Police Department has ever said a word about that.”
DiCello and Abbarno also represent the family of Jayland Walker, the unarmed Akron man gunned down by police during a traffic stop in June 2022.
The case is Marquetta Williams, et.al. v. City of Canton and Robert Huber, et.al., Case No. 5:23-cv-00655 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. A copy of the complaint is available upon request.
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