Hannah Williams was 17 years old when she was fatally shot after pointing a replica gun at a Fullerton police officer on a Southern California freeway at around 7 p.m. on July 5.
Family friend Christopher Bellamy and his wife arranged a fundraiser Saturday evening at Nevitt Park in Phoenix to raise money for the Williams family, who were close friends. He described Hannah as a very sweet girl.
Hannah was born and raised in Arizona, but her family moved in the past year to California, where she worked as a lifeguard at Knott’s Berry Farm, according to family friend Christopher Bellamy.
Hannah’s family buried the teen Thursday in Tempe, and they’re still looking for answers.
“I just can’t believe this would happen to them,” Bellamy said. He’s known Hannah’s father since he was young, and her grandmother taught him in school. “They’re just… so not the kind of people you’d expect this to happen to. They were just great people.”
The shooting took place as a K9 officer was taking a dog to a veterinarian for injuries it sustained during a prior call. An SUV sped past the officer, prompting him to initiate a traffic stop, said Fullerton police spokesman Lt. Jon Radus, in a video posted to the department’s YouTube page.
The vehicle then appeared to intentionally collide with the officer’s car before making a U-turn into oncoming traffic and stopping, Radus said.
Fullerton Police Chief Bob Dunn has said three separate investigations are underway in light of the shooting.
The family’s lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, updated the case on social media: First, he and the family encouraged people to call the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for body cam footage which was released last Friday, largely in part from public pressure, according to a post on the lawyer’s Instagram.
A video posted to the Fullerton Police Department’s YouTube page shows the officer’s body-camera footage of what happened. When the officer stopped Hannah’s van, she stepped out with what appeared to be a handgun, and the officer shot her twice in the chest and once in the leg. She died from her injuries.
“From what they saw, he didn’t handle the procedures correctly,” Bellamy said of the officer’s body cam footage.
Merritt earlier said on social media that Hannah was likely having a mental health crisis.
Merritt said in an Instagram post that the officer hadn’t behaved according to proper procedure. Williams “seemed to have planned out this incident in an attempt to end her own life,” he said. “Last year, Hannah had a very traumatic experience … At the time of this incident however, Hannah outwardly seemed to be doing very well and her family believed she was well on her way to recovery. She wasn’t.”
The lawyer added that it seemed from the video that Hannah was trying to end her life through the police confrontation. “If proper police procedure had been followed, she should not have been successful,” he wrote. “Hannah’s action indicated that she was confrontational and potentially dangerous. Any patrol officer will tell you that when encountering this kind of behavior by a motorist there are specific policies and procedures that must be followed to ensure officer safety, safety to the public and even the safety of the suspect.”
Merritt has filed a $25 million claim against Fullerton, according to The Associated Press.
Bellamy added that Hannah volunteered with kids, and her dad, Benson Williams, was incredibly proud of her and her siblings. “Her dad is just the nicest person. I don’t think he could even create an enemy, and her mom is great too,” he said.
Hannah “was the star of the family,” Merritt said in an Instagram post.
Hannah was in high school when she died. She was hoping to join the Air Force when she graduated – just like her big sister, Nyla.
A GoFundMe for the family raised $13,345 since its creation three days after the shooting.
The family is looking for answers as to why this happened.
“I think they’re taking legal actions,” Bellamy said.
After being asked for comment, Hannah’s father didn’t confirm their next steps, saying his family wasn’t ready to talk to the press about what happened to their daughter.
He did, however, say in a Facebook post that it’s not over yet.
Reporter BrieAnna J. Frank contributed to this report.
Read or Share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2019/07/20/fundraiser-held-teen-arizona-fatally-shot-police-officer-california/1788434001/