Death at jail ruled a homicide

EVERETT — The death of a man at the Snohomish County Jail in September has been ruled a homicide.

Bill Williams, 59, of Everett, died from heart problems after a physical struggle with jail staff, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office said Thursday.

Williams had been shocked twice with a stun gun just minutes before he died Sept. 14, according to police.

His death has been under investigation by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a cadre of homicide detectives who handle officer-involved deaths.

Homicide is a medical term that means a person died as a result of another’s actions. It is up to police and prosecutors to decide whether those actions may constitute a crime, such as manslaughter or murder, or were legally justified.

SMART spokesman and Everett police officer Aaron Snell wasn’t immediately available for comment Thursday evening.

Police officials last week said the case remained under active investigation. Completed SMART cases typically are reviewed by prosecutors to determine whether charges should be filed.

Williams, who had long struggled with mental illness, reportedly got into a confrontation with jail staff that night. He’d been booked by Everett police for investigation of theft.

Williams was booked into jail at 10:17 p.m. Police said he was combative. He was shocked twice with “little result,” Snell said at the time.

Williams then was placed into an isolation cell. At 10:34 p.m., he was found in medical distress. Jail staff summoned medics and began resuscitation efforts.

Williams spent much of his life in Skagit County but moved to Everett in recent years, where he was receiving services, according to his family. He had suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenic episodes since his 20s.

Williams had good years in his life but also could lose touch with reality, his family said.

His relatives still are trying to get through everything that’s happened, his daughter, Trina Blau, told The Herald on Thursday.

They’re hopeful people will pay more attention to mental illness, and find ways to prevent additional deaths, she said.

“He was a good person who just had issues with mental illness,” she said.

They learned of the medical examiner’s ruling on the cause and manner of Williams’ death in recent days.

“Our family is just trying to absorb the news,” Blau said. “We knew in our hearts that was the case as soon as we got the call that morning. Right now, we’re processing through it.”

Williams’ funeral was held in October at the Port Susan Chapel in Tulalip, she said. About 50 people attended.

“That was one of his favorite places,” she said. “It was a really nice service.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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