Family Demands Answers after 17-Year-Old Daughter Fatally Shot by California Police

A family of a 17-year-old girl who was shot by California police is now demanding answers on what happened. The incident occurred in Anaheim, California on July 5, according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. An officer from the Fullerton Police Department was reportedly driving a police SUV on the eastbound 91 freeway to take his police K-9 to the veterinarian. While driving, the officer saw a 17-year-old girl driving in the same direction on the freeway “at a high rate of speed.”

It is unclear how the two interacted, but the press release states that a fake gun was recovered next to the victim.

“At some point, the two vehicles made physical contact. An officer-involved shooting occurred and a replica Beretta 92 FS handgun was recovered at the scene next to the female,” the statement read. “The gun was later identified as a replica handgun designed to look like a real Beretta 92 FS.”

The teen was transported to the hospital but died. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office said it is investigating the incident.

The 17-year-old has been identified as Hannah Williams. Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a community activist with the National Action Network and a spokesman for the family, told NBC News that Willams did not have a gun on her at the time of the shooting.

"We maintain that she was unarmed. A fake gun is a fake gun," Maupin said during a July 9 press conference.

Maupin further stated that the car the teen was driving was a rental and the family does not know who the gun belonged to. He also told reporters that Williams’ family is asking to know what exactly happened and if the officers were following proper protocol.

“The Williams Family wants to set the standards for transparency in this case,” Maupin said. “The public wants to know what happened and whether or not the officers involved followed all policies and procedures. We have doubts.”

Williams’ godmother Lynette Campbell said the family is “more than devasted” over the teen's death.

"Losing Hannah is hard — the circumstances in which we lost her have made it that much harder," Campbell said at a press conference. "As of today, we do not have clear answers about what happened to Hannah."

Williams’s parents told The New York Times that their daughter had just started her summer job as a lifeguard at the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park and was recently voted captain of her soccer team at Magnolia High School.

“I still don’t believe it,” Benson Williams, Williams’s father said. “I still think she’s going to knock on the door, she’s going to call. We didn’t get to say goodbye to her.”

In May, lawmakers in California pushed to pass a bill that would clarify when police officers are allowed to use deadly force (some local activists have criticized lawmakers for acquiescing to police pressure and weakening the bill) . The bill, called the California Act to Save Lives or Assembly Bill 392, would require police to use their judgment.

The bill was first introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego. The piece of legislation would also require officers to use de-escalation techniques, like explaining their actions or listening to the suspect’s story before reaching for their gun.

“The piling on of killings of often unarmed civilians by police for the past six or seven years now is wearing on the conscience of this nation,” Weber told USA Today. “The thought after these shootings often is, ‘Isn’t there something else police could have done?’ And maybe sometimes there are other things.”

The California legislature passed the bill on July 8, just a few days after Williams was shot and killed. It will head to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, which he intends to sign.

“Race matters, and to suggest otherwise is a blatant denial of the obvious,” Democrat state Senator Holly Mitchell said. “It’s obvious to so many that the current ‘reasonable standard’ of using force… does not protect people’s fundamental human rights.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.