The morning after a Fullerton policeman fatally shot Hannah Linn Williams, a 17-year-old girl, on Friday night, Anaheim police announced their homicide detectives recovered a “possible handgun” or an “item appearing to be a handgun” from the 91 freeway where the incident occurred within city limits. They also initially referred to Williams as a “suspect” without specifying any crime. Both phrases sparked criticism in the days that followed for a police shooting only growing in controversy by the day.
Tasked with investigating the police shooting, the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office released a photo of the replica gun on Tuesday it says was found next to the girl and was designed to appear like a Beretta 92 FS pistol.
The agency further stated that a fully uniformed on-duty Fullerton policeman drove a marked SUV eastbound on the 91 freeway on Friday en route to taking his K-9 dog to the veterinarian. That’s when he reportedly observed Williams speeding near the Glassell Avenue exit. At some point, the two vehicles “made physical contact.” The officer shot Williams, who later died at a nearby hospital, around 7 p.m. It remains unclear whether the replica gun factored in the officer’s decision to use deadly force.
California Highway Patrol closed the eastbound 91 freeway for several hours. Aerial footage from news helicopters showed a black SUV that didn’t appear to be badly damaged near a police vehicle.
A legal conclusion from the OCDA on possible criminal charges against the officer is months away, but the Williams family is pushing hard for answers. The OCDA and Anaheim police have declined to name the Anaheim teen citing her age, but Williams’ parents came forward and confirmed that she was the girl shot to death in the incident.
The family also released a photo of the teen to the public while calling the incident something that “appears to be another unjustified shooting of a young person of color” in a released statement. Williams’ father is African American and her mother is Mexican American.
A review by the Weekly of police shootings between 2006 and 2016 revealed that blacks and Latinos are disproportionately shot and killed by OC law enforcement.
Holding a press conference outside Anaheim city hall on Tuesday, the Williams family called on Governor Gavin Newsom to task the California Attorney General’s office with investigating the police shooting. They’re also seeking an independent autopsy.
The controversy comes just weeks after Bob Dunn became Fullerton’s permanent police chief. Before joining the force, Dunn previously served as spokesman for Anaheim PD in 2012 when the city’s downtown exploded in riots over back-to-back controversial police shootings.