Coroner’s inquest to investigate death of Fred Williams III

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The second coroner’s inquest in two months, after the county went 30 years without one, will be held Jan. 28 investigating the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Black man who was running away from sheriff’s deputies while armed with a handgun in Willowbrook in October.

Retired Justice Candace Cooper, who also conducted the Nov. 30 inquest into the sheriff’s department killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, the first inquest in Los Angeles County in more than 30 years, will conduct the inquest into the death of Fred Williams III.

The inquest into the Oct. 16th death of Williams will be public. Cooper, as the hearing officer, will hear the testimony, then make findings as to the cause and manner of death, then forward her decision and recommendation to the coroner’s office.

Cooper ruled that Guardado’s death came at the hands of another, meaning it was a homicide.

The coroner’s office said the inquest into Williams’ death “supports the department’s mission and purpose to provide independent, evidence-based death investigations, addresses the public’s interest in the death, and is in accord with a motion approved by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 27, 2020.”

The sheriff’s department released body camera footage on Oct. 30 of the shooting, which occurred in the area of Mona Park.

The footage showed Williams on top of a garden shed with a firearm in his hand, as he jumped into the yard of another property, at which point a deputy shot him. He died at the scene.

The coroner’s office listed the cause as gunshot wound in the back.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department claims Williams pointed a gun at the deputy, but that allegation is not clear in the footage.

The victim’s father, Fred Williams Jr., told the Los Angeles Times after the footage’s release, “the video clearly shows there was never a gun pointed in [the deputy’s] direction.”

Deputies had seen Williams holding a handgun and standing with a group of about 15 people when he allegedly put a handgun into his waistband and ran away. One deputy pursued him on foot and another deputy followed in a patrol car, according to the sheriff’s department.

Photos released by the sheriff’s department show Williams with a handgun at his waist as he runs through the yard of a residence in the 2200 block of East 122nd Street.

The sheriff’s department alleges that Williams “engaged the deputy by pointing his firearm at him at which point a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”

In the footage, a gun is visible in his hand, but not clearly pointed at the deputy.

The deputy, who at the time did not know if Williams was struck by gunfire, then broadcasted on his emergency radio that the suspect jumped into another yard, and the deputy said he “pointed [firearm] at me.”

Deputies recovered a loaded pistol, which the department said was not registered to Williams, who was on parole and prohibited from owning a firearm.

Deputies at the Century Sheriff’s Station, along with four other stations, received the department’s first batch of body-worn cameras and started wearing them in the field on Oct. 1.

Supporters of the Williams family and the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police held a march Jan. 23 from Mona Park in Willowbrook to the Century Sheriff’s Station in which they called out for justice for Williams.