17-Year-Old Girl Killed By Officer Was ‘in Possession’ of Replica Gun; Bodycam Video to Be Released: Fullerton Police

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Fullerton police said Thursday they plan to release  bodycam video showing the incident that ended with a 17-year-old girl – thought to be “in possession” of a replica handgun – being shot and killed by a police officer on a freeway in Anaheim last week.

Hannah Williams of Anaheim was pronounced dead at a hospital after being shot on the eastbound 91 Freeway near Kramer Boulevard on July 5, in an incident involving a Fullerton Police Department officer, authorities said.

Hannah Williams appears in a photo provided by a family spokesperson on July 6, 2019.
Hannah Williams appears in a photo provided by a family spokesperson on July 6, 2019.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has said the fake gun “designed to look identical to a Beretta 92 FS handgun” was found next to her. A statement from Fullerton police issued Thursday said she was “in possession” of it.

The details of what happened leading up to the shooting remain unclear, and police have not clarified how the teenager was connected to the fake gun or where exactly it was found at the scene.

The Fullerton police officer involved in the shooting was wearing a body camera that captured the incident, police said.

Bodycam footage and photos from the shooting will be released in the coming days, authorities said.

Police said information about what led up to the shooting will also be made available.

On Thursday, Williams’ family and their attorney spoke to members of the media to renew calls for information and demand the release of the bodycam footage, and the name of the officer involved.

“The narrative that has been released by law enforcement is completely void of details,” civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt said. “The law enforcement officer did not say that she even wielded a gun.”

Merritt alleged that police had not discovered a replica gun until they were given permission to search the car on Monday — three days after the shooting.

“We don’t believe that the weapon had played any role in that incident,” Merritt said.

The family believes that a child may have left the toy gun in the car since the family was sharing it over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

A handgun recovered at the scene of a fatal police shooting was determined to be a replica, prosecutors said.
A handgun recovered at the scene of a fatal police shooting was determined to be a replica, prosecutors said.

The attorney said the family knows of two witnesses who described seeing the teenager waving a phone around, and one witness, a bystander, who said he saw her waving a gun around. The family believes that witness could not have seen what was happening on the freeway.

“A 17-year-old girl is dead with no explanation,” Merritt said.

Williams, who family members say just got her driver’s permit, is believed to have taken the rental car out to practice driving at about 6: 30 p.m. when she accidentally ended up on the freeway and was involved in a car accident.

The teenager was described as an inexperienced driver who had never driven on a freeway before. Merritt said the earthquake that struck that day may have also contributed to a car crash.

The District Attorney’s Office provided little information on what happened on the road, only saying that an officer saw the car traveling at a high rate of speed and “at some point, the two vehicles made physical contact.”

Williams’ family did not know that their daughter had been shot when police officers showed up at their home asking about the teenager’s state of mind before leaving the house, Merritt said.

The family found out several hours later that their daughter had been killed after she had an “argument” with officers, according to the attorney.

The teenager was in a happy and good mood the day she was shot because family members were visiting for the holiday weekend, and they were planning on a trip to Hollywood that night, Merritt said.

The family requested that the teenager’s body be turned over to them for an independent autopsy, but authorities had not released the body as of Thursday morning.

Merritt said the family believes Williams was shot three times, but won’t be able to confirm this until the autopsy is performed.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Anaheim Police Department are investigating Williams’ actions leading up to the shooting and the officer’s actions “to determine if his use of deadly force was reasonable and justified,” Fullerton police said, adding that the department is also investigating the incident.

On Thursday evening, Fullerton Mayor Jesus Silva issued a statement indicating he was in “constant communication” with Fullerton police Chief Bob Dunn about an ongoing internal investigation.

“For full public transparency and accountability, these investigations will be comprehensive, but they do take time to make sure all the facts are known,” Silva said.

The mayor said he was working in ensure the bodycam video is released in the next few days.

“Incidents like this are tragic for all involved. As a father, I empathize greatly with the sorrow and pain that the William’s family is experiencing,” Silva wrote. “I want everyone to know that releasing this information is very important to us, and to our continued commitment to accountability and transparency to the community we serve.”

But Merritt indicated the Williams family is skeptical.

“We don’t trust law enforcement officers to simply investigate themselves,” Merritt said, pushing for the release of the teen’s body within the next 24 hours.

At the news conference Thursday, standing with family members outside the DA’s office in Orange County, the teenager’s older sister described her as a kind and loving person who loved helping people.

Williams was a lifeguard at Knott’s Berry Farm and wanted to save people, her sister said.

“She deserved everything in this world and all the stars in the sky,” 19-year-old Nyla Williams said.

Correction: This story in two instances incorrectly indicated multiple officers were involved in the shooting. As indicated lower in the story, only one officer was involved, according to authorities. Also, the description of the replica handgun was attributed to an initial statement from police, while it was actually the DA’s office that first offered the description of the fake Beretta. The post has been updated.

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