by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News
They held vigil for Bill Williams Saturday night outside the very place he died, the Snohomish County Jail.
“My husband was mentally ill and we were not able to receive the help we needed,” said Nancy Williams, his wife. “I don’t understand.”
His family says Bill Williams battled demons for four decades. His family says over that time, they had Williams involuntarily committed 12 times. Recently, he stopped taking his medication for his bi-polar disorder.
“I started calling the police last week and his case manager saying Bill needs to be hospitalized,” his wife said. “And they ignored us.”
Then Friday night at a convenience store on Broadway, police arrested Williams for shoplifting.
“My first thought was why is he in jail and not the hospital,” said his daughter Trina Blau. “He’s mentally ill.”
Police say while he was being booked at the jail, Williams became combative. Officers tased him and put him in an isolation cell as a safety precaution. According to the family, three hours later he was found dead.
“My dad had a name, he had a faced. He was a real person,” said Blau. “He was not some piece of garbage to be tased to death.”
The Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team is investigating the death, which is standard procedure for any death of an individual in police custody. SMART could release few details, but says maintaining control inside the jail is of upmost importance.
“You have to do what makes you safe and others inside the jail system safe as well,” said Everett police officer Aaron Snell, who was acting as the SMART spokesperson. “It’s a tough situation.”
Now yet another family battling mental illness feels the system has failed them.
“No one should die in their cell alone, when they don’t even know why they’re there,” said Blau.
The medical examiner tells Williams’ family it could be weeks before toxicology tests are back and they know exactly how he died.