In 2014 & 2015 & 2016, stories of police brutality, and the names and stories of victims of police violence not only dominated headlines in this country – they dominated headlines all over the world. But the election of Donald Trump changed all of that.
And for the past 2.5 years, from 2017 until today, most Americans would be hard pressed to name a single person killed by police – not because it has slowed down, but because the stories just aren’t being told anymore. And I need all of us to understand that the crisis of police brutality is as real and problematic today as it has ever been.
And one story that would be absolutely dominating the headlines right now if Trump had not completely sucked the wind out of the news cycle would be the horrific shooting death of 17 year old Hannah Williams this past 4th of July weekend by police in Fullerton, California. My friend and brother, Attorney Lee Merritt and I are working directly with Hannah’s family. On the evening of Friday, July 5th, Hannah and her family were about to make the drive from Anaheim to Hollywood for a fun day trip when she took the family car to run an errand. As the family waited for Hannah to return home , she never returned. In broad daylight, on the side of the highway, she was shot and killed by police – and to this day, 6 days later, the family has not been given any explanation as to what happened.
Hannah was a rising senior at Magnolia High School in Anaheim. She was so proud to have just been hired as a lifeguard at Knott’s Berry Farm, a local amusement park there in Southern California, for the summer. She was the star of the family. They had only moved to Southern California 11 months ago but Hannah had already started building a huge network of friends, supporters and colleagues. Beyond being an elite swimmer, she was bilingual being fluent in Spanish. As a young queer woman of color, she was passionate about LGBTQ rights. Most importantly she was thriving. She was surrounded by a family that loved and supported her. She was excelling academically. She was gainfully employed and active as the captain of her soccer team. She was healthy, happy and loved.
One minute she was safe in her home preparing for a family trip to Hollywood. The next minute she was gone. The family believes she went to run a quick errand before their outing and was stopped by the police. Hannah should not have died like this. She was a sweet innocent girl. A soccer enthusiast that was looking forward to watching the women’s team USA compete for the World Cup. Instead she is dead— another number in the mounting toll of citizens killed by American police. I’m not trying to play respectability politics but this young girl has never been in trouble a day in her life.
All we know is that somewhere along State Route 91 Hannah’s vehicle seemed to have accidentally bumped into a police car while each vehicle traveled east along the highway. Neither vehicle sustained serious damage. This should’ve ended with them exchanging insurance information and her father being called to come get her.
Beyond this point the narrative offered by law enforcement goes complete dark in a way that I never seen before in my professional career. Law enforcement has simply offered no narrative whatsoever as to what happened after the relatively minor collision. Statements provided by investigators move from the car accident to Hannah being shot to death by the police officer. Witnesses have stated Hannah emerged from her car with her cellphone in hand. Body cam footage from the incident does exist. It must be released immediately. Hannah was running a quick errand before her and her family traveled to Hollywood on a group outing. She was enjoying her summer like most senior high students in the area. She loved the summer job she landed as a lifeguard at Knox Berry Farm. She was looking forward to her senior year of High School where she was captain of her soccer team. She had so much to look forward to. She was happy and loved and thriving. Now she’s dead. And we need answers. This much we know – she was unarmed and non-violent. And we live in the only developed nation in the world where an unarmed, non-violent 17 year old girl ends up being shot and killed by police while she’s out running an errand for her family.
Later today I am going to post some action steps that we can take to support the family of Hannah Williams. They are going to need some financial help and we are going to put some pressure on the DA and police department. If you’d like to help this family – you can sign up now @ TheBreakdownCrew.com – The BreakdownCrew.com.