‘I will continue to fight until I get the truth’: A year later, family of Antonio Williams wants justice and transparency

Shawn and Gladys Williams.
Photos by Jason Cohen

A year after Antonio Williams was murdered by police in the Bronx, members of the community expressed outrage for the lack of disciplinary action for the NYPD officers and that the unedited version of officers’ body cam footage had not yet been released.

On Sept. 29, Williams’ family was joined by Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), Justice Committee, Assemblyman Michael Blake, racial justice advocates and community members as they held a vigil at the Edenwald Houses at 1128 E 229th St. The event honored the one-year anniversary of the 27-year-old’s death at the hands of NYPD officers, who also killed fellow Officer Brian Mulkeen in friendly fire.

“I think of everything they say about my son and it hurts and angers me because you never knew him,” said his father Shawn Williams. “You know nothing about him but you made your own judgment. I will continue to fight until I get the truth of what happened to my son.”

On Sept. 29, 2019, Williams was standing on the street waiting for a taxi, when plainclothes officers jumped out of cars just after midnight. He was killed by NYPD officers after being chased, tackled and punched.

Six cops reportedly drew their guns and opened fire, killing both Williams and Mulkeen in a reckless hail of 15 bullets. The NYPD has offered no explanation for why Williams was first approached or why they escalated the incident without reasonable suspicion of a crime.

Since Williams’ death, there has been no word from Mayor de Blasio or the NYPD on whether any officers will be disciplined.  The Bronx District Attorney’s office has not completed its investigation. The Williams family has demanded that the officers involved be fired from the NYPD and charged by the DA’s office.

Shawn and his wife Gladys were quite emotional when speaking about their son. Shawn said that Williams was a brother, son and father, He recalled how his son loved poetry, tried being a rapper, but most importantly, enjoyed life.

“He was always there for his brothers and he loved them to the end,” Shawn commented. “He loved his son and daughter. As a father, I loved him to the end.”

Shawn said he did not understand why the police would attack and kill his son. Gladys also expressed frustration with the mayor and DA Darcel Clark.

“We ask Darcel Clark to prosecute these cops,” she exclaimed. “It’s been a year and we still have no transparency.”

Loyda Colon, co-director of the Justice Committee and a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, echoed her sentiments.

“In the year since the NYPD gunned Antonio Williams down, his family has experienced disrespect and disregard by the Bronx District Attorney’s office, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD,” Colon said. “No family should be forced to wait this long without answers and without accountability. The officers should already have been fired for their illegal stop, escalation and reckless shooting that killed Antonio and we will continue to fight with the Williams family until this happens.”

Among the people at the vigil was Victor Dempsey, a friend of Williams’, whose brother Delrawn Small was also killed by the police in 2016.

Dempsey expressed disbelief at the fact that he lost both his brother and a good friend in the past four years. He recalled how Williams always made him laugh and often ate chicken wings that fell on his stomach.

An emotional Dempsey told people about a time they were playing football and he was about to get blindsided when suddenly, Williams knocked the other guy down. Williams said, “don’t worry, I got you.”

“Seeing his name on a sign is a problem for me,” Dempsey said. “His life was stolen from him. His family deserves answers.”

David Rankin, a lawyer for the Williams’ family, said that he is not giving up on this case and justice is coming. According to Rankin, waiting for a cab is not illegal and police should have told Williams why they were approaching him.

For a year, the city had used legal tactics to stonewall Williams’ family to prevent the release of the full body camera footage, Rankin said.

“We truly hope we can get justice,” Rankin stressed. “We’re working as hard as we possibly can. It’s sad. They acted recklessly and created a situation that caused two people’s deaths.”

While Assemblyman Blake is an elected official, he emphasized that he is a Black man first, who grew up on Crescent and Burnside Avenues.

At the vigil, Blake said he was getting sick and tired of seeing Black people killed and questioned where justice was for Williams, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake.

“I shouldn’t be afraid of waiting outside for a cab,” Blake said. “These cops must be fired and held accountable. I’m not saying every cop is a bad cop, but the cops that are silent about this are bad cops. If you are not willing to speak about what’s happening in this country, then you have no business wearing the uniform.”

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