CANTON – Nine-year-old Ja’Lia Williams pointed out the blood spots on the living room floor where her father fell following the family’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
James Williams, 46, had been blasting celebratory gunfire to ring in the new year when a police officer shot him to death minutes after midnight, firing through the family’s enclosed wooden security fence, which is 6 feet high, according to his wife, Marquetta Williams.
“Out of the blue, he said he got shot, he got hit,” she said. “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.”
Marquetta Williams said she was standing only a foot or two from her husband inside the back door at their 10th Street SW home when he fired four shots into the air. James Williams turned to follow her inside and then told her, “I’ve been shot.”
Police Chief Jack Angelo has asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate, turning over police body camera footage which has not yet been released to the public.
The chief issued a news release Saturday saying that Williams was armed when police responded at 12:06 a.m. to gunfire at his house in the 2300 block of 10th Street SW. The release said “… 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.”
Police have declined to comment beyond the initial news release from Angelo.
Harry Campbell, chief investigator of the Stark County Coroner’s Office, said Williams was pronounced dead at 12:27 a.m. Sunday at Aultman Hospital, which is only a few blocks from Williams’ home.
The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave, as is policy in an officer-involved shooting.
‘We were going outside to shoot guns like everybody else does at New Year’s.’
Williams’ wife told The Canton Repository that she never saw an officer before her husband was shot.
The father of six girls, James Williams was at home New Year’s Eve with his wife and three of their daughters, his mother’s cousin and her nephew-in-law.
The girls were watching TV and, at midnight, “when the ball dropped,” the adults stepped out the side door into the enclosed patio, Marquetta Williams said.
“The kids were watching the countdown and we were going outside to shoot guns like everybody else does at New Year’s,” she said.
She said her husband used her AR-15 and fired into the air as they heard their neighbors firing guns into the air, too. He does not have a concealed carry permit, but she does, she said, adding that the gun belongs to her.
“We do this every year because it was New Year’s Eve,” she said. “Everybody (in the neighborhood) was shooting. It was a tradition. Everybody shoots on New Year’s Eve.”
After he fired off a few rounds, they stepped back inside and, a few seconds later, he wanted to fire off a few more rounds. He fired four times as he stood just outside their side door, about a foot away from her, still inside the enclosed patio.
She said he stepped back into the house and he told her he’d been hit.
“I could see the blood splattering across his shirt,” she said. “He collapsed in the living room.”
Marquetta Williams called 911 and by the time she opened the door, “There were 30-something officers with guns pointing at us, telling us to get down and come out of the house with our hands up.”
In a 911 recording released to the newspaper on Monday, a woman can be heard telling the dispatcher, “My husband is shot.”
On Monday morning, Beacon Academy Principal Cami Lewis went to the family’s house. Lewis said the girls attend her school, and she was preparing to send food, school counselors and other resources to the home.
Holes could be seen in the fencing where, Marquetta Williams said, the bullets had passed through
‘He loved spending time with his kids.’
Ja’Lia Williams said her father cooked brunch on New Year’s Eve, a meal of bacon, eggs and biscuits.
“That was the last meal he cooked,” she said.
Her mother explained that James Williams loved to cook, often making their favorites, spaghetti and macaroni and cheese.
He had a massive hat collection and, she said, “He was a die-hard Detroit Lions and Detroit Pistons fan. He’s from Detroit. He doesn’t care if they were losing or not, he still rooted for them.”
The Detroit native attended the University of Akron where he studied criminal justice before moving to Canton. The family also lived in Indiana for a short time.
And, she said, “he loved spending time with his kids.”
A stay-at-home father, Williams had four daughters ages 9 through 15 and two step-daughters. Family photos decorating the living room show him proudly grinning in the middle of his large family.
“My husband was a good man, and he didn’t deserve to die this way,” Marquetta Williams said. “He was loved. He was lovable and kind. He would give you the shirt off of his back. … He’s going to be dearly missed. He shouldn’t have died the way that he did. I just want justice for him.”