Body camera video shows teen fatally shot by officer on freeway appeared to have handgun

The handgun turned out to be a replica. The girl's family said that they want families to be more quickly informed of details in similar situations.
Image: Teenager shot killed
In this police still image from a body camera video released on Friday, appears to show a 17-year-old girl point a replica handgun at an officer just before she was fatally shot on an Anaheim freeway.Fullerton PD

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By Phil Helsel

The teen who was fatally shot by police on an Anaheim freeway pointed what appeared to be a handgun at the officer, police said Friday while releasing body camera footage.

The weapon was a replica.

The 17-year-old, identified by family members as Hannah Williams, died at a hospital after being shot by a Fullerton officer on State Route 91 around 7 p.m. July 5.

The video, which police released Friday, appears to show the officer coming around the corner of a sport-utility vehicle and shooting a woman. Slowed down video released by police shows her pointing what appeared to be a handgun before she is shot. Police have said the SUV intentionally struck the officer's vehicle.

Fullerton police spokesman Lt. Jon Radus said in a video statement Friday that the officer, who has not been identified, got out of his vehicle and "was confronted by a female" who "was in a shooting stance, with both arms extended in front of her, pointing a gun directly at" him. The officer then fired.

An attorney for Hannah's family, Lee Merritt, on Friday lamented that police did not immediately provide the family additional details of the shooting, specifically that Hannah appeared to be in a shooting stance.

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"If they had known that from the beginning that would have gave them a bit more closure. That would have helped them sleep a bit more — now, we still have questions," Merritt said.

"There's still an ongoing investigation. This is not over for this family," he said.

Before the shooting, the officer was taking his police dog to a veterinarian hospital and spotted a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle speed past, a police spokesman said.

While attempting to stop that SUV, the officer was intentionally struck by the SUV, which then made a U-turn and ended up facing the wrong way on the freeway, Radus said in the video statement released Friday.

The officer got out of his vehicle, was confronted by the woman and fired, Radus said.

Authorities have said they found a replica handgun designed to look like a real handgun, which resembled a Beretta 92 FS.

The body camera video shows the officer reporting shots fired and calling for medics, and the shot woman appearing to say “please help me,” and “I can’t breathe,” as she is handcuffed.

She says she was hit in the chest, and another officer who retrieved the gun says “it’s a replica.” The video shows police performing first aid.

Hannah Williams, 17, was fatally shot by police on a freeway in Anaheim, California, on July 5, 2019.Williams Family

About 90 minutes after the shooting, the woman's father called Anaheim police to report that his daughter had been missing for around three hours, was in their rental car, on antidepressants and may want to harm herself.

Fullerton Police Chief Bob Dunn said police are in the preliminary phases of the investigation, and that police are making no conclusions as to whether the officer acted in accordance with department policies or the law.

The shooting is also under investigation by the Orange County District Attorney.

The district attorney’s office also said Friday that its office is exploring options about how to more quickly provide more information to families and the public when officers are involved in shootings.

Merritt, the family attorney, said that the lack of information was a burden on Hannah’s family. “The way this family has been treated in this process is wrong,” he said, adding that family members “should not be left in the dark, wondering.”

"Because it doesn’t have to be families vs. the police," he said. "It doesn’t have to be families vs. the city.”

Merritt also said that he and the family acknowledge that the officer had very little time to make that analysis and was confronted by a person in a shooting stance. "We can't exonerate him at this point, but we certainly can't condemn him," he said.