Names like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have become commonplace across the country over the past few weeks. In the wake of the killings of Taylor, Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, protesters have taken to the streets in every state, including in the Louisville area.
But one name that may not be as recognizable is Malcolm Williams. On April 29, Williams was shot and killed by an Indiana State Police (ISP) trooper during a traffic stop in Jeffersonville, Ind.
Williams was the passenger in a vehicle that was stopped for having no tail lights. That stop would ultimately end in his death. A release from ISP alleged that Williams gave a false name, and later fired a handgun at the trooper, who returned fire.
Family and friends of Williams aren’t satisfied with that account, nor are they satisfied with the investigation that has been ongoing since that night. On Saturday, scores of protesters marched from the Brighter Day Church of God in Christ to the site where Williams was killed to call for more transparency from investigators.
“Here we are in June, about to go into July, and nothing has come out from that case,” said Andray Pirtle, a church leader who guided the group for most of the day. “So we’re seeking justice for Malcolm Williams and his family. Everybody deserves equal justice, and we really feel like he’s been pushed behind, up under the rug.”
Protesters are seeking body or dash cam footage of the incident involving Williams, but ISP troopers do not wear body cams. ISP detectives from the Versailles district were assigned to investigate the case. The trooper who killed Williams has since returned to duty.
To Charles Craft, a youth pastor at Brighter Day, which sits less than a mile from where Williams was shot, the long line of incidents resulting in the death of people of color makes him wonder if America’s policing system and racial inequity can change.
He pointed to a recent viral video that showed a young Black boy suddenly taking a break from shooting basketball to hide behind his parents’ truck when a police officer drove by his house. Once the police officer had passed, the boy nonchalantly resumed his shootaround.
“That hurt me,” said Craft, who is Black. “I should feel like I can go into a building just like my white counterpart can go into a building. Sometimes, it’s not the weapons that we carry on our side. But it’s the weapon of our skin tone that causes us to be put into unequal situations.”
Tyler Williams, was a prominent voice at previous protests in Southern Indiana in the aftermath of his brother’s killing. But his voice was noticeably absent on Saturday.
On June 11, Tyler Williams was killed in an accidental shooting in New Albany, Ind. The men’s mother, Tara Williams, fought back tears as she stood before the group and delivered a speech at the spot where Malcolm was shot. With the passing of Tyler, she has now lost three sons to shootings.
“I don’t know how to be a mother that lost all three of her kids,” she said. “I really don’t. I pray to God every single day that he gives me strength. I don’t even need answers. I just need strength.”
A fund is being set up by Community Action of Southern Indiana to support the family. Executive director Phil Ellis said that in addition to physical checks, the organization will also accept donations via GoFundMe, which will be accessible from its website.
Ellis said he hopes to meet with Tara Williams to discuss how that money will be used, and noted it could help fund legal support.