The family of a 17-year-old girl shot and killed by a Fullerton Police Department officer on an Anaheim freeway has filed a claim for damages against the city of Fullerton, their attorney said Friday.
The claim filed on behalf of Hannah Williams’ family seeks damages in excess of $25 million for the July 5 incident, according to a copy of the claim, which is dated July 10.
Just before the shooting, the officer tried to pull over Williams’ gray rental SUV for speeding when she apparently intentionally collided with the officer’s patrol vehicle, police said. Then Williams made an abrupt U-turn into oncoming traffic and came to a skidding stop facing the wrong way, according to police.
Body camera video released by the city’s Police Department on July 12 shows that the teenager had exited the SUV and took what police described as a “shooting stance” while holding a replica handgun on the eastbound 91 Freeway near Kraemer Boulevard.
Williams was quickly shot by the on-duty Fullerton officer. The replica Beretta was seen near her as she lay on the pavement, calling out for help while the officer handcuffed her, the video showed.
The officer’s bodycam did not record audio during the first moments of his interaction with Williams, so it’s not clear what words were exchanged or exactly when he fired on her.
Williams was later taken to a hospital, where she died, police said.
“It is our belief that the officer who shot Hannah violated Fullerton Police Dept. policies and procedures given the way he handled what certainly would have been determined to be a felony stop after she made purposeful contact with his vehicle,” the family’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, said in a written statement.
Williams’ family said the teenager was on antidepressants and their attorney told the media that the shooting highlights the need for the nation to do a better job in dealing with people affected by mental illness.
“If this officer had indeed followed proper department protocols, he wouldn’t have engaged without first assessing the situation and in turn may have saved her life and spared himself the anguish of knowing he shot and killed a teenager who had no intent to harm him but was simply suffering a mental health crisis,” Merritt said.
The Fullerton city clerk’s office said they received the family’s claim Monday.
A claim is a precursor to the filing of a lawsuit.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Fullerton and Anaheim police departments are investigating the incident.