According to his wife, James Williams, a 46-year-old father of five from Canton, Ohio, was firing celebratory gunshots into the air shortly after midnight New Year's Day when his life abruptly came to an end.
Police responded to the neighborhood upon hearing reports of shots fired in the area. Then, when one officer heard gunfire ring out from behind a fenced-in area outside Williams' home, he shot in the direction of the gunfire without warning.
"Out of the blue, he said he got shot, he got hit," Marquetta Williams recalled in an interview with the Canton Repository. "I don't know where it came from. Nobody said anything. They didn't say, 'Police.' They didn't say, 'Freeze.' They didn't say, 'Drop your weapon.' They just shot him."
Williams' report seems to be confirmed by police bodycam footage released last week by the Canton Police Department.
In the video, the unidentified officer runs up to the household after hearing spontaneous gunfire and blindly fires multiple rounds through an enclosed wooden fence. Seconds later, shrieks can be heard coming from within the house.
Content warning: graphic violence that may be disturbing to some viewers
WARNING | Graphic content: Canton police release body camera footage of deadly shooting www.youtube.com
Marquetta Williams said she was standing only a foot or two away from her husband when he was struck by the police gunfire while shooting an AR-15. He was rushed to a nearby hospital with multiple gunshot wounds but died shortly after he arrived.
In a brief news release following the incident, Canton police said the unidentified officer “confronted a subject that began shooting a firearm," adding, "The officer, in fear for his safety, fired his duty weapon at the subject and struck him."
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now handling the incident and, per department policy, the officer who fired the fatal shots has been placed on administrative leave.
'Everybody shoots' on New Year's
Amazingly, Marquetta Williams claimed that celebratory gunfire on New Year's — though illegal and extremely dangerous — is something of a holiday tradition in the neighborhood.
"The kids were watching the countdown and we were going outside to shoot guns like everybody else does at New Year's," she told the Repository.
"We do this every year because it was New Year's Eve," she insisted, noting, "Everybody [in the neighborhood] was shooting. It was a tradition. Everybody shoots on New Year's Eve."
According to Marquetta, James Williams stepped in and out of the house twice to spray gunfire into the air. But after the second time, he ran back into the house telling her that he'd been hit.
"I could see the blood splattering across his shirt," she said. "He collapsed in the living room."
Williams remembered her husband as a family man who "loved spending time with his kids." She now hopes an investigation will lead to some justice for him and the family.
"My husband was a good man, and he didn't deserve to die this way," she said. "He was loved. He was lovable and kind. He would give you the shirt off of his back. ... He's going to be dearly missed. He shouldn't have died the way that he did. I just want justice for him."
According to ABC News, Williams called the shooting "unjustified" and "senseless."
A vigil for Williams was held last Wednesday night outside the family's home, and Marquetta Williams has said that further protests are being planned.
Ohio police officer on leave after New Year's shooting www.youtube.com