- Special Sections
- Public Notices
We now have watched the troubling final frames of Trey Williams’ life, heard the fuzzy words Shelbyville Police Officers Suzanna Marcum and Frank Willoughby exchanged with Mr. Williams and seen some of what they saw on that Saturday afternoon.
But although we have studied that video, watched those final minutes unfold and read the accompanying transcripts, our picture remains equally cloudy and minus the understanding we had hoped we would have received.
Interviews with the officers and other witnesses that were released by Kentucky State Police investigators fail to help spin the visual narrative into a complete account that would end this terrible nightmare for Mr. Williams’ family, for the officers involved and for this community as a whole.
That’s because we still don’t understand why this had to happen, why that day had to turn deadly.
If you have seen the video we watched, you know what members of a Shelby County Grand Jury saw and likely have a semblance of understanding of why Officer Marcum fired her weapon – three times, the deputy coroner now has clarified – in defense of her partner.
Officer Willoughby’s violent struggle with Mr. Williams is apparent. His pleas for help from his partner are clear. Her hesitation with using lethal force is obvious.
Law enforcement officers understand those situations, and many daily find themselves in such split-second moments of life-determining decision.
Officer Marcum saw her partner’s life in danger, and she did what she had been trained to do. She shot to kill.
Our questions, though, occur primarily from the moments before that struggle began, when the officers first found Mr. Williams locked in the bathroom of his grandmother’s home, a place where we are told he lived part of the time.
They found him because they heard him chanting something that to those interviewed was termed “unintelligible” in the transcripts but what could be discerned as a plea for them to leave him alone and go away.
Officers Marcum and Willoughby were investigating a potential crime. They didn’t know what to expect as they went through each neat room of the house where Williams’ grandmother lived.
They heard nothing and saw nothing until they came to that locked door, tried to open it and were greeted by Mr. Williams’ shouts.
This is the place where our questions begin:
Why didn’t the officers contact Mrs. Farris or try to understand that situation of who might be inside before entering the house?
When they came to the locked interior door and heard Mr. Williams’ cries, why didn’t they stop and ask for backup or try to give the situation time to defuse? What burglar shouts at police from behind a locked door? What if he had a hostage there? Or a weapon?
Why did Officer Willoughby feel compelled to kick in the door?
Why did both officers, when finding Mr. Williams standing alone and basically unarmed – transcripts said he was holding a piece of PVC pipe – determine they automatically had to fire their Tasers incessantly?
Why when Mr. Williams was on the floor face down did they not then try to subdue him and handcuff him?
There seemed to be several points when Mr. Williams might have been subdued without violence.
We don’t know the full physical condition of Mr. Williams other than the absence of narcotics in his blood stream.
We don’t know his mental state or understand why his day had unfolded the way it did.
We just don’t know much at all except that a young man is dead and several lives have been buried with him.
Attorneys for Mr. Williams’ family have said they would file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the officers. If they do, these questions surely will be asked and to some degree answered.
We are not experts in criminal justice or police procedure.
We only have observed this situation with impartial eyes similar to those who would sit on the next jury and be asked to pass judgment.
Those men and women likely would render a decision that would continue to add difficulty and remorse to all involved.
We can only hope that raising these questions can create an awareness that may lead to another life being saved in the future.
But we may never hear the correct and full response to the question of “why.”
That answer likely died on the bedroom floor, too.