Updated: Community gathers to mourn Jerry Williams, protest police shootings of black men

Sharon Pearson Williams (in front of crowd), cousin of Jerry Williams, said she had marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and served in the U.S. military in Vietnam. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Community members, family members of Jai Lateef Solveig Williams and supporters of Asheville Black Lives Matter gathered in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse at Pack Square Park on Tuesday, July 5. Williams, who family and friends say went by the name “Jerry,” was shot and killed on July 2 by Asheville Police Department Sergeant Tyler Radford at Deaverview Apartments.

Sharon Pearson Williams, who said she was a first cousin of Mr. Williams, addressed the crowd of about 60 at a rally that was also announced as a press conference on the Asheville Black Lives Matter Facebook page. Williams said the shooting was an unjustified use of force carried out “in broad daylight, with children outside, execution-style.” She said the victim was shot seven times in the head. Other attendees confirmed the number of shots and also said Mr. Williams’ body was left lying in place for about three hours, guarded by officers with rifles.

Ms. Williams blasted the media, especially television news crews, asking them to move back. “Why are the cameras on us and not on them?” Ms. Williams asked, gesturing toward the government buildings that line the park. She also referred to footage she said bystanders had filmed of the incident, saying that the police were closing ranks to obscure details about the shooting, but that Mr. Williams was not holding a gun at the time he was shot.

Updated at 4:28 p.m., July 5:

John C. Barnett II of the Civil Rights Office of True Healing Under God (T.H.U.G.) said he will be serving as the spokesperson for the Williams family. Barnett, who is based in Charlotte, said he will be arriving in the Asheville area this evening. He plans to meet privately with witnesses to the shooting, including some who have video footage. One of those he plans to interview is Williams’ girlfriend, who was in the vehicle with Williams at the time of the police chase and the shooting, Barnett said. The testimony of the witnesses contradicts claims made by police officers, according to Barnett.

Barnett said he had been contacted by Mr. Williams’ mother, Najiyyah Avery Williams. At a press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on July 6 in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse, Barnett said he will announce the attorney who will represent the family and will lay out his organization’s civil rights strategy in the case.

Barnett said his organization was involved in the case of Jonathan Ferrell, a black man shot and killed by a white police officer in Charlotte in September 2013.  Though the officer was eventually acquitted by a jury, Ferrell’s family eventually received a $2.25 million settlement from the City of Charlotte, Barnett said.

(end of update)

At today’s rally, Delores Venable, an organizer of Asheville Black Lives Matter, said no black family has been left untouched by excessive police force and violence. She said Mr. Williams’ shooting marked “…a season of change. This is a new Asheville.” The black community, she said, is united, despite media portrayals that have suggested otherwise. She then asked the media to leave, saying, “This is a time of grief, not a time of media.”

White supporters of Asheville Black Lives Matter were asked to stand in a separate area. Photo by Virginia Daffron
At one point in the rally, Black Lives Matter organizers asked white supporters to stand in a separate area. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Before the rally got underway, family friend Jackie Bryson said, “[The police] killed this man in cold blood. Every time this happens they try to find an excuse.”

“He isn’t a criminal,” said the victim’s sister, Danielle Williams. “The police are the most vicious gang in America.”

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Delores Venable, in the striped top, is an organizer and leader of Asheville Black Lives Matter. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Quwiivonte Timmons, who lives in Candler, said, “Every time something happens with a black man, they get shot. The police need to receive training to handle these situations better.” He said that, as a black man, this shooting and others like it make him feel unsafe. “Officers can do whatever they want to, because they have a badge,” he explained.

Former Asheville mayor Terry Bellamy, who now handles community relations for the Asheville Housing Authority, said it will take time for details to emerge about what happened. She said she had spoken to District Attorney Todd Williams about the investigation of the shooting, which is being handled by the State Bureau of Investigation. Williams released a statement on Tuesday morning: “It is important to determine what happened last Saturday night competently and accurately. Therefore, a thorough investigation may require a significant amount of time. In this case, as in all cases, I pledge to conduct a full and fair review of the investigation.”

The Asheville Police Department released the following statement on July 2:

Today at approximately 7:00 p.m. the Asheville Police Department responded to a call for shots fired in the vicinity of Pisgahview Apartments. While enroute officers were provided with a description of the suspect’s vehicle and while on-scene the vehicle was located. After attempting to stop the vehicle the suspect fled the scene and a pursuit ensued. During the pursuit officers witnessed a female passenger in a struggle with the driver. Police continued to pursue the vehicle into Deaverview Apartments where the vehicle came to a stop. The officer began giving the driver commands and when the suspect displayed a weapon, deadly force was used.

No additional injuries were sustained by the passengers of the vehicle or to officers.

The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is on-scene and will be investigating the incident. In addition, the Asheville Police Department’s Professional Standards Division will be investigating the incident to determine that policies were followed. Per Asheville Police Department protocol the officer involved has been placed on Administrative Leave pending investigation.

Police Chief Tammy Hooper released an additional statement on July 4:

It has come to my attention that there is misinformation circulating in the community regarding some of the circumstances in the Saturday, July 2 officer involved shooting at Deaverview apartments.

The incident is currently under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.  We are fully cooperating with the investigation and cannot release specific details. However, I would like to clarify information originally released.

Mr. Williams was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. Shell casings were recovered in Pisgah View apartments where the initial call for service for shots fired originated and the weapon was recovered from Mr. Williams at the scene in Deaverview.

Any death represents a loss to the community and is particularly devastating for members of the family. We are asking for the community’s patience and help as the SBI continues their investigation. Anyone who witnessed the incident is urged to contact the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) at 828-654-8901.

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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36 thoughts on “Updated: Community gathers to mourn Jerry Williams, protest police shootings of black men

  1. Guy

    I’m pretty sure it’s criminal to shoot up an apartment complex. Pretty damn sure. The officer may have saved all the passengers lives that night, along with the people that live at those apartments… If you’re defending violent criminals then no one is going to take your movement serious. How about trying to end the violence in your community? If you pull a gun on a cop you get shot, period. Are there deaths from cops using violent force when unnecessary? Yes. Was this one of those times? No. Not at all. Sounds like the response was right on target.

    • boatrocker

      Until it is your white daughter on the cooling board at the morgue.

      • John

        My white daughter won’t be shooting a gun in public housing projects or fleeing from the police anytime soon.

        • boatrocker

          Wow, way to take it literally.

          I’m glad she won’t, but she also won’t be assumed to be guilty before being proved it, incarcerated/killed by police at traffic stops at higher rates that other groups, demonized, called a thug on FOX ‘news’ for the crime of wearing her baseball hat sideways or otherwise marginalized as a second class citizen if she ever has to negotiate the money squeezing meatgrinder that is the American justice system.

          But I think you knew exactly what I was implying.

          • c

            Boatrocker, ,get your facts straight. I suggest that you start by comparing whites and blacks shot by the police. Just because you think something is true it doesn’t mean it’s true. Your trolling is disgusting.

      • c

        There are already two daughters buried, after they were pulled out from the river. Much life experience, BR?

        • boatrocker

          No, not really. I leave that to other posters on this site to enlighten me.

          • c

            They all have a very tough job, it seems. …you can lead a horse to water….

  2. dyfed

    >She also referred to footage she said bystanders had filmed of the incident

    If there’s footage that they have of a police officer shooting an unarmed man, how come they haven’t sent it to the media or the SBI?

    Given that they recovered a rifle and empty shells from the scene, and that the policeman was responding to a called-in report of gunfire, I will make a small wager that there isn’t any footage showing what the BLM spokeswoman claims.

  3. rbockman

    easy cure, don’t commit crime, don’t get shot, by police or anyone

  4. Carol

    When someone is in your community shooting a gun and the police respond to your calls for help they should be commended for their bravery.

  5. Really

    I am always amazed at the comments that I read after articles like this. Whether this man was a criminal or not is not even the question. The question is whether or not there was excessive force. If he was not pointing a gun and his hands were up at the time of the shooting as some claim then this man should not be dead! It is so easy to sit back in judgement of others because you think you are better and that you know best, but you aren’t and you don’t! If he shot in PVA and was beating on a pregnant woman he should have been arrested, not shot to death if he was not a danger at that moment in time! When you don’t live the reality of fear for your life because of your skin color of is hard to phathom how that feels. It’s hard to imagine having drills with your male relatives who are young and learning that they will always be preceived as a threat, as to how to respond to police. Was this man, Jerry, a saint–no! But he was someone’s son, brother, and father. Above all else he was human and his life mattered.

    • Big al

      So now you are defending the beating of pregnant women and the brandishing and firing of ASSAULT RIFLES in public?

      Very progressive of you. Screw NOW and welcome to the NRA.

      And what about the woman who was beaten? Did her “Black Life Matter”?

      • Really

        If you actually read my statement we would have something to discuss. Clearly you misread-I never defended his actions I simply stated my opinion based on the facts as I know them.

    • How do you know black people live in fear? Are you black? What do you know about it other than what other people have told you? In this case, what does being black have to do with anything? The man was shooting an AR-15, the police responded, the man got shot dead. How is race even remotely relevant here? Did you know most black criminals are shot fighting the police and making the police fear for their life? Did you know that? Are you aware of such a crucial fact?

      • The Real World

        Dear Really – ALL of the comments so far make total sense except yours. You are the one making judgement calls without the facts.

        It is yet again more knee-jerk, emotional behavior from someone who doesn’t think for him/herself and doesn’t believe facts and reality are important. Give us a break and come back only after you’ve grown up.

        • Really

          The fact that you are attacking me instead of intelligently responding to my post speaks volumes. I will not make any assumptions about your maturity level. 😉

      • Really

        Yes I am black and I respect your right to disagree. Not sure why you are so hostile, you don’t know what my level of knowledge is concerning this or any other case. Your comments assume that I am defending this man’s actions. I am NOT. Using your logic anyone involved in a crime deserves to die and if that works for you then so be it. Interesting to note that a white man shot at police two days later and was neither shot nor killed but arrested.

    • dyfed

      >If he was not pointing a gun and his hands were up at the time of the shooting as some claim then this man should not be dead!

      They claimed he didn’t even have a gun, and yet gunfire was reported, shells were recovered, and a gun was recovered. So the credibility of these ‘witnesses’ is immediately in question.

      >his life mattered

      The lives of those he was putting in danger mattered more.

      When a man is firing off an AR-15 in the street, he presents a clear and immediate danger to the public safety. There are plenty of incidences of actual police brutality where innocent people were shot. Go fight those battles.

      • Concerned Mom

        Yes, blacks do kill blacks, just as do other races yet they are not being gunned down by law enforcement officers that are to protect the public, be respected and are trained to handle matters properly, equally and justly. This is my worst fear, as a mother of 3 black male sons each time my phone rings in the early morning hours I am afraid not that another person on the street has just caused harm to one of my children but now I am fearful that they could be hunted and harmed by law enforcement. My sons have been pulled over unjustly by officers too many times to count on bogus allegations only to find that they were not guilty. They have made false claims that have cost us lots of money to prove innocence. I see lives destroyed daily by what is supposed to be trusted officers. What this does is provoke a distrust and a fear and both lead to a response to defend and protect one’s life. This is our problem! Now the greatest issue is how do we fix the problem? Creating a larger divide is not the solution, sifting out the wheat from the tare is a start to the resolution. Revisit the laws and implement new laws that will make trigger happy officers responsible, stricter gun laws, equal respect regardless of race or gender and equal treatment.
        Stop the bigotry that does no one any good… We are a mixed society more than we are separate and we need to treat each other with human respect and not hatred..

      • Really

        I am not fighting a battle, just stating my opinion. It is clear to me that the art of conversation is lost. My statement remains true–if he was not pointing a gun at officers or anyone else and his hands were up then he presented no immediate danger and HE SHOULD NOT BE DEAD!

        • dyfed

          If.

          So far, seems like the situation’s pretty clear: he was firing a combat rifle in public and beating a pregnant girl. I don’t see any reason to believe that he was not a threat to public safety.

    • MX

      You got it exactly right in this statement. Thank you for posting and don’t let these people who obviously did not actually read and think about what you wrote get to you. For me you bring up the most important points.

      • c

        MX, you allow some to troll, if they are in line with your beliefs, you support others, such as above, and you disallow other comments to be posted that you don’t like. Very liberal of you.

        • Virginia Daffron

          C, I see how this is unclear, but “MX” is a user-generated account. Mountain Xpress staff and management only comment here under our own names. So “MX” is a reader and therefore has no role in allowing or disallowing comments on this site.

          • c

            Maybe you should, then, disallow that MX usage so as to avoid confusion – you do censor anyways, selectively and subjectively, so comment still stands.

        • Virginia Daffron

          c, I can’t reply to your latest comment (there’s a limit to the number of levels of reply), but you raise a reasonable concern. We are looking into reserving certain potentially confusing user names so they won’t be available for readers.

    • Nick

      If the responders to the post by Really will read it clearly, you will see he is not defending the morals or actions of the deceased. He is just saying you should not kill a man because he does bad things if you can use a non lethal way of restraining him. There are many men in jail for threatening others with a gun, for domestic violence, and we don’t execute them. It does seem true that if you are black, you are more likely to be killed for threatening behavior than if you are white. Is this reasonable?

  6. Yep

    Sad situation, but WHY did Jerry have an ASSAULT rifle ? Black Lives Matter, yes, but NOT to blacks who kill other blacks daily by the dozen… little Chicago, right here …

  7. Virginia Daffron

    Folks, when you respond to another poster, express agreement or disagreement with the ideas. Calling someone a name violates our terms of service, and results in your comment being removed.

  8. Concerned Mom

    Yes, blacks do kill blacks, just as do other races yet they are not being gunned down by law enforcement officers that are to protect the public, be respected and are trained to handle matters properly, equally and justly. This is my worst fear, as a mother of 3 black male sons each time my phone rings in the early morning hours I am afraid not that another person on the street has just caused harm to one of my children but now I am fearful that they could be hunted and harmed by law enforcement. My sons have been pulled over unjustly by officers too many times to count on bogus allegations only to find that they were not guilty. They have made false claims that have cost us lots of money to prove innocence. I see lives destroyed daily by what is supposed to be trusted officers. What this does is provoke a distrust and a fear and both lead to a response to defend and protect one’s life. This is our problem! Now the greatest issue is how do we fix the problem? Creating a larger divide is not the solution, sifting out the wheat from the tare is a start to the resolution. Revisit the laws and implement new laws that will make trigger happy officers responsible, stricter gun laws, equal respect regardless of race or gender and equal treatment.
    Stop the bigotry that does no one any good… We are a mixed society more than we are separate and we need to treat each other with human respect and not hatred..

    • C

      The truth is, based on facts and statistics and in spite of media frenzy, your sons have scant chance of being shot by the police. According to statistics, the biggest dangers to your sons are other black males, and that’s the facts.

      • concerned mom

        We don’t live in high crime area our community is very diverse, they don’t go to places when safety could be compromised. My sons are 32, 30 and 29 years old they have two parent household with educated parents and they have college education. Our only negative encounters have been with law enforcement. National statics aren’t apart of our equation.

  9. boatrocker

    I just read that McCrory signed a bill into law today that outlaws the general public, or as police call them, “The Enemy” from being able to view police body cam footage.

    Welcome to the GOP police state, brought to you by McCrory, Art Pope and others who truly care for your well being.
    War is peace
    Freedom is slavery
    Ignorance is strength

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