About James Williams
James Williams, was a 46 year old Detroit native resident, husband and a father of six girls. At the candlelight vigil that was held for James on January 5th, one of his daughter's described him as being a great dad that always did whatever he had to do to make his children happy. James was a true family guy and loved spending time with his girls. He was a devoted Detroit Lions, as well as, a Pistons fan and a beloved member of his community. James was known to host cookouts in his Canton, Ohio neighborhood for all to enjoy. His kindness and laughter was contagious. James was a good man that will be forever loved and missed by all who knew him.
New Year's Eve was just like any other for the Williams family. They were spending time together as a family and celebrating the coming of the New Year. It is a well-known tradition across America to shoot celebratory gunfire into the air at midnight on New Year's Eve, as well as many other holidays throughout the year, like the 4th of July for example. On this particular New Year's Eve, James Williams was taking part in that long-time tradition, as were many in the neighborhood that evening.
It should be noted that while there is a city ordinance in Canton prohibiting the discharge of firearms within city limits, Ohio State law (O.R.C. 2923.162) confirms that it is not unlawful to discharge a firearm on one's own property. However, IF it would've been found in a court of law that James DID violate the law, discharging a firearm within the Canton city limits is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of only 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, but I digress.
While on a (seemingly unrelated) shots fired call, Canton Police Officer Robert A. Huber allegedly heard gunshots and stopped his squad car in front of the Williams family home, without his overhead lights, headlights or sirens turned on. As can be seen on the body cam footage (linked below), Robert Huber walks around the exterior of the Williams family home and gets on his radio to make a "correction" on his location to the dispatcher. It should also be noted, that it has not yet been confirmed if the original "shots fired" call that Robert Huber was dispatched to, was in fact, the same gunfire he allegedly heard outside the Williams family home. This is why the family and activists have been persistent in requesting that the Canton Police Department release the audio of all "shots fired" calls for that evening.
Also as seen on the body cam footage, Robert Huber admits that he went onto the Williams family porch, looked in their windows, and witnessed James Williams putting his rifle away. Robert Huber had every opportunity to either: knock on the Williams family's door, return to his squad car to request backup, and/or announce his presence. He chose not to do any of that and up to this point, the Williams family is still completely unaware of Robert Huber's presence. A few moments later, James decides he wants to let off a bit more of celebratory gunfire into the air. James, while in his own fenced in backyard, begins firing his rifle toward the sky, and Robert Huber then runs from the opposite side of the home exterior up to the fence that James Williams was standing behind. As seen on the body cam footage, James was very clearly firing his rifle toward the sky. It should also be noted that police body cameras are typically mounted in the center of their middle to upper chest, which means that Robert Huber likely had a much better view of the skyward angle of James' rifle, at eye level.
Then, without saying a single word, Robert Huber opens fire without having any visible target whatsoever, and shoots directly through the Williams' 6 ft. privacy fence, hitting James in the chest. Robert Huber never made his presence known to James or his family. Robert Huber never gave James any instructions or demands to stop shooting, drop his rifle, etc. Robert Huber, quite literally, shot and killed James Williams out of nowhere. It wasn't until after he shot him that he announced himself at all, let alone as a police officer.
While James stumbles back into his home only to collapse on the floor in front of his family, Robert Huber was more concerned with more heavily arming himself with his own rifle from his police cruiser than with giving medical attention to James, whom he just shot. The Williams family was so unaware of the police's presence after James was shot, that James' wife, Marquetta actually called 911 pleading for help because her husband was shot and she had no idea who shot him at this point.
Moments later, Marquetta comes out onto her porch with her arms raised in the air, desperately asking someone to help her husband, who was bleeding out on the living room floor. Robert Huber and the other officers that arrived on the scene after James was shot, ignored Marquetta's pleas for help and instead, held Marquetta and her children at gunpoint while the officers demanded they lay down on the freezing sidewalk in front of their home. Upon several officers entering the Williams home, they gave no immediate medical attention to James, as seen on the body cam footage.
In the time that followed, Marquetta wasn't even allowed to accompany her husband in the ambulance, and instead was questioned by investigators for hours after her husband had already died. In an initial statement after the shooting, Police Chief Jack Angelo said that the officer "confronted" a subject and "feared for his safety". Jack Angelo goes on to say that "the officer fired his duty weapon at the subject and struck him." The important thing to note here, is that a "confrontation" takes more than one party. It is, quite literally, impossible to have a "confrontation" with a subject who has NO IDEA of your presence.
As mentioned previously, there were no sirens, headlights, or overhead lights turned on, on Robert Huber's police cruiser and he never made himself known to the Williams' family prior to shooting and killing James Williams, despite having every opportunity to do so. Robert Huber was on scene at the Williams' family home for an undetermined amount of time prior to the start of his body camera footage that was released by the Canton Police Department approximately five days after the shooting.
Robert Huber never gave James Williams the opportunity to surrender, and according to Marquetta Williams- had James been given that opportunity, he most certainly would have surrendered without incident. Robert Huber not only blatantly ignored department protocol, but he clearly violated specific department policies and basic handgun safety.
Chief Jack Angelo stated publicly, at the "Town Hall Meeting: Our Police and the Community", an community event hosted by the Stark County Collaborative on Race Relations in June and July of 2020 (following the murder of George Floyd), that the Canton Police Department abides by 7 out of the "8 Can't Wait" policies created y Campaign Zero to prevent police violence. The seven policies that Jack Angelo stated Canton has and will continue to abide by are highlighted below:
1. Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds.
2. Require de-escalation.
3. Require warning before shooting.
4. Requires exhaust of all alternatives before shooting.
5. Duty to intervene.
6. Ban shooting at moving vehicles.
7. Require comprehensive reporting.
8. Require use of force continuum.
Of the four policies that would immediately apply in this specific incident (#'s 2, 3, 4, and 8), Canton agreeing to abide by three of them (#2, 3, and 4), Robert Huber DID NOT follow ANY of them.
Robert Huber DID NOT make ANY attempt to de-escalate the incident with James Williams.
Robert Huber DID NOT give ANY warning prior to shooting at James Williams.
Robert Huber DID NOT exhaust ALL ALTERNATIVES before shooting James Williams.
Officer Huber violated ALL of the policies that would immediately apply to this incident. The outright recklessness and lack of common sense that Officer Huber displayed should not only disqualify him from ever being a police officer again, but it should most certainly result in criminal charges for the murder of James Williams. We MUST demand accountability. This behavior is unacceptable and should NOT be tolerated by ANY police department, ever.
It's also important to note that the Canton Police Department refused to name Robert Huber as the shooter for approximately 40 days. The city was actively denying access to public records that could've identified Robert Huber as the shooter and someone had redacted Robert Huber's name from the incident report. The law director "claims" that she was unaware that a redacted version even existed. Yet, it did. In the time since the shooting, all parties, including: the city, the mayor, and the police chief have refused to comment or the murder of James Williams.
Additionally, it wasn't discovered until March 5th that Robert Huber was removed from administrative leave and returned to work on January 17th, just sixteen days after he shot and killed James Williams. There has been no word from the Ohio BCI about the status of their "investigation", and no proposed timeline has been given. The lack of transparency and accountability is unacceptable on every level. We MUST hold them accountable! Visit the Action Plan to get involved with the fight for transparency and justice.
About the Officer
It is the community that is collectively responsible for putting in the investigative work to uncover who killed James Williams and they did so WITHOUT the help of the Canton Police Department. After cross-referencing several pieces of evidence, including body camera footage, publicly available police reports, and eyewitness accounts, it is with true intentions that we came to the conclusion that Robert Huber is the officer responsible for the murder of James Williams.
Even after pleas from the community to release the name of the officer that killed James, it wasn't until approximately 40 days after the shooting, that it was confirmed to be Robert Huber that shot and killed James.
For weeks, the city refused to name Robert Huber as the officer that shot and killed James Williams. Someone, although no one is taking responsibility as of yet, redacted Robert Huber's name from the incident report and the city was actively denying requests for public records that could identify him, claiming that he is an "uncharged suspect" and protected by "state law". Lynn Rowe Larsen, an attorney for the Repository, sent a letter to city officials saying a redacted report omitting the officer's name that was previously released to the newspaper violated Ohio's public records laws and cited a 2001 Ohio Supreme Court decision involving the Akron Beacon Journal and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office that said an incident report of a homicide "is not a confidential" record. The Law Director, Kristen Bates Aylward, claims she didn't know that an redacted version of the report existed, and that her office will be investigating the redactions from the incident report. After approximately 40 days and pressure from the family, activists, and the community, Canton released the unredacted report identifying Robert Huber as the officer that killed James Williams.
After the shooting, the family was told that Robert Huber would remain on administrative leave until the conclusion of the Ohio BCI investigation, however, it was discovered on March 5th that Robert Huber was removed from administrative leave and returned to work on January 17th, just sixteen days after he shot and killed James Williams. Not only that, but he was transferred to the Detective Bureau, which very well could have come with an increase in pay. If that is the case, they essentially gave him a promotion.
From what the community has gathered about this officer, it appears that Robert Huber has been a CPD officer for approximately 8 years, and he has, allegedly, been named as one of seven officers in a now-dismissed lawsuit for excessive force in 2016. He is married, with several children and during his time since he killed James Williams, he has had the opportunity to enjoy many freedoms (confirmed by social media posts that were sent to activists anonymously) such as nights out at local breweries with his wife and friends, the father-daughter dance with his kid (something James Williams will NEVER be able to do again), his other child's first birthday, celebrating his 20th Valentine's Day with his wife, free tickets to the MAC conference. He's returned to business as usual, with seemingly zero regrets or remorse for his actions.
Photos provided anonymously from social media. Names and faces other than Robert Huber's have been redacted.
If you're looking to get involved and be an advocate for accountability on behalf of the Williams Family, you can get in touch here.