The family of a 17-year-old girl fatally shot by a Fullerton police officer on the 91 Freeway in Anaheim demanded Tuesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom order Attorney General Xavier Becerra to conduct a civil-rights investigation into the shooting.
Meanwhile, prosecutors taking part in the investigation revealed that a replica handgun was recovered at the scene of the Friday night shooting that left Hannah Williams dead.
Williams’ relatives gathered outside Anaheim City Hall for an afternoon news conference, during which a statement was read on behalf of the family, saying they are “more than devastated not only by what happened to Hannah but the resulting news reports and events that have transpired since July 5.”
“Losing Hannah is hard. The circumstances in which we lost her have made it that much harder,” the family said in the statement, which was read by Williams’ godmother.
“As of today we still do not have clear answers about what happened to Hannah. The information we have received from the police department has changed several times,” according to the family. The family said Williams was “beloved” by her family and “had her whole life ahead of her.”
The family wants the Fullerton officer who shot her to be suspended without pay during the investigation. They also asked the governor to direct the attorney general — as the state’s top law enforcement officer — to conduct an independent investigation.
Family spokesman the Rev. Jarrett Maupin said local authorities — Fullerton, Anaheim, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office — cannot be trusted to investigate each other.
In a statement issued Tuesday morning, the family of Hannah Williams also called on the Rev. Al Sharpton to intervene in the case.
“We want Rev. Sharpton to shine a light on what happened here in Anaheim,” said Benson Williams, the teen’s father. “We want to know why police felt the need to shoot and kill a 17-year-old unarmed teen girl.”
Relatives were joined at the news conference Tuesday afternoon by Maupin, a member of Sharpton’s National Action Network, along with NAACP officials.
According to Anaheim police, a Fullerton police K-9 officer radioed about 7 p.m. Friday that he had been involved in a shooting on the Riverside (91) Freeway east of Kraemer Boulevard.
“A female suspect was struck by gunfire and was transported to a local hospital where she later died,” according to an Anaheim police statement.
No officers were injured during the shooting, police tweeted.
A replica handgun designed to look like a Beretta 92FS handgun was recovered at the scene, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the shooting, as is routine in officer-involved incidents.
According to prosecutors, the officer was on the way to a veterinarian to have his canine partner treated. The officer saw the teen driver, who was also eastbound, speeding near Glassell Avenue and at some point “the two vehicles made physical contact,” after which the officer-involved shooting occurred, prosecutors said.
Maupin insisted Williams was unarmed and had no information about who owned the replica weapon found at the scene. He noted that Williams was driving a rental car at the time. He did not disclose where Williams was heading at the time.
Renay Arnold, who said she witnessed the shooting, told NBC4 she saw Williams standing on the freeway outside of her vehicle and approaching the officer despite multiple commands by the officer that she stop.
“She looked angry and she was walking towards him, the officer,” Arnold said. ” … She raised both arms with a 9mm gun and he had to shoot her. He shot her. Three times. Bang bang bang.”
Maupin said Williams, who worked as a lifeguard, spent Friday with her family at their home in Anaheim before leaving that evening. He said the accident involving the Fullerton police squad car “was very minor.”
Williams moved to the area less than a year ago with her family from Phoenix.
Anaheim police said more information may be released this week after potential witnesses are interviewed.
“The freeway was packed and all potential witnesses need to be interviewed first. We cannot risk influencing someone’s statement, by releasing details prematurely,” the department tweeted. The Fullerton Police Department has not commented on the shooting, other than confirming one of its officers was involved.
According to her family, Williams considered community service an “integral part” of her life, “as exemplified by her work as a lifeguard, her commitment to save lives.” The teen also “loved volunteering at community healthcare with her parents.”
“The public wants to know what happened and whether or not the officers involved followed all policies and procedures. We have doubts,” according to the family’s statement.
The family also announced plans to “have an independent autopsy conducted, fearing police will delay in releasing official autopsy results and continue to withhold information about the nature of the shooting from the public.”
Maupin said the family wants to “set the standards for transparency in this case,” Maupin said.
The Williams family said it had established a GoFundMe account to assist with funeral expenses.
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