Waltki Cermoun Williams, a 35-year-old man from South Carolina, wasn't armed in December 2016 when local police officers fired 17 shots into his back as he lay on the ground. The man was struck in total by 19 shots, NBC news reports.
According to a lawsuit filed Friday, police officers in Sumter, South Carolina, chased Williams on Dec. 10 after hearing reports that he had threatened his girlfriend by allegedly pointed a gun at her car. The altercation between he and the woman reportedly happened at the Sumter Mall, where the chase began.
As police pursued Williams, he crashed his red SUV at the intersection of Miller Road and Guinard Drive, colliding with two cars as a result.
To exit the vehicle, Williams threw something out of his window and broke the glass. Once he escaped out of the opening, police pursued him for 10 steps and tackled him to the ground. At this point, the lawsuit claims Williams had no weapons on his person, and yet three officers fired their weapons 24 times as he lay on the ground.
At least 19 bullets hit the man with 17 hitting his back. He was later declared dead at the scene.
According to his attorneys, the shooting “is so extreme and outrageous that it shocks the conscious.”
Police at the time reported that moments after the crash there was “a brief struggle and then an exchange of gunfire” before he exited the vehicle. No one other than Williams was shot, however.
After the deadly exchange, officers involved in the case were placed on administrative leave, and the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is now investigating the shooting. Dashcam footage of the entire ordeal exists and is part of the probe.
In a December statement, Sumter Police Chief Russell F. Roark III said that the “incident shows the devastating, far-reaching effects of domestic violence on individuals, families, law enforcement, the Sumter community and the state as a whole." Nevertheless, the city of Sumter is now being accused of gross negligence and wrongful death.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the case that prompted the police's involvement, it's clearly an abuse of authority to simply shoot a man who is both unarmed and lying on the ground.
Whether law enforcement likes it or not, the officer's job is not to be the judge and the executioner; all he is expected to do is to capture a suspect so that they can then face justice.
Unfortunately, too many officers continue to play the role of judge and executioner. Unless they start paying for the crimes they commit, it seems unlikely they will stop acting as such.