Canton: Police Murder Man in His Backyard as New Year Begins, Community Demands Justice

By Jason Bartles

Only minutes into the new year, James “Big Roe” Williams was shot and killed in his own backyard by a police officer in Canton, Ohio. His wife, Marquetta Williams, has vowed to fight for justice, as community members and activists have joined the struggle.

The neighborhood where Williams lived has a long-standing tradition of celebratory gunfire to ring in the new year. As midnight struck, Williams fired his wife’s AR-15 into the air. An officer with the Canton Police Department (CPD) soon arrived at Williams’s house, allegedly investigating a noise complaint, and witnessed Williams holding and then putting away the AR-15.

James Williams (on right) with family

While the officer waited by his vehicle, Williams brought the weapon outside a second time and fired several times into the air while standing behind a six-foot privacy fence. An edited body-cam video from the officer released by CPD shows him charging onto Williams’s property unannounced and firing blindly through the fence. The officer only announces himself as the police after already firing six shots. Williams was struck in the chest and retreated into his home, where his wife and children were inside, mere feet from where the bullets were fired.

The officer then ordered Mrs. Williams and her children to come outside and lie on the ground. He spent several minutes searching the house while Williams lay on the floor, bleeding out. Williams died en route to the hospital.

Ruling-class officials have predictably launched into justifying and downplaying the murder. Canton police chief Jack Angelo stated, “The officer feared for his safety.” Ohio attorney general Dave Yost said, “[The body-cam video] doesn’t show you an awful lot of context for the other facts that go into a determination of whether something was proper or not. Reserve judgment for now.”

The officer himself has not been identified by officials, but an investigation by the revisionist (false Marxist) publication World Socialist Web Site (WSWS)* established that the officer is likely Robert Huber. Huber’s vehicle tag, K9-60, is visible in body camera footage released by the police department.  WSWS cross-referenced this with publicly available police reports which show Huber being part of the K960 unit. Without visual confirmation, Tribune is working to further verify the officer’s identity.

On January 8, dozens of people protested outside of the CPD headquarters, demanding the State reveal the killer’s identity, release all video evidence in its possession, and criminally charge the killer. The protest developed into a march through the streets. Protesters blocked traffic at a four-way intersection and held it for six minutes, symbolizing the amount of time Williams lived during 2022 before being gunned down.

The protest began with several speeches. Activist Joseph Butts stated, “Canton has a history of killing people, especially on New Year’s Day. … Ja’Ron Nero was killed three years ago on January 1 by Canton Police. Not a single person can find justice for him.”

Attorney Joseph M. Gourrier, who is representing the Williams family, pointed out that Ohio statutory law permits discharging a firearm on one’s property. He also accused CPD of failing to provide adequate medical attention.

Williams’s sister described her brother as a loving father and family man who “would give you the shirt off his back.” Throughout the speeches, numerous drivers honked and raised their fists in support. Activist Sierra Mason concluded by saying, “Ohio has a reputation for killing Black folks. All of these cops deserve to be behind bars, if not worse.”

The protest then moved onto the streets. Marchers chanted, “Tell us his name, the cop that killed James!” As the march proceeded, several began agitating for more militant action as they approached a four-way intersection. Activists halted the march and protesters occupied the intersection, blocking traffic for six minutes.

After the march ended, Williams’s wife spoke to the crowd about her demands to CPD: “Y’all know what I want. I want justice, and I want peace. And I’m not going to sit down until I get it.”

Williams is asking for donations to her GoFundMe page to pay for funeral and living expenses.

Editors’ Note: The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) is a publication of the Fourth International, a formation of Trotskyism (upholding the revisionist leader, Leon Trotsky, traitor to the Russian Revolution). While acknowledging WSWS’s work to expose this officer, Tribune holds strong disagreements with their political lines and ideological deviations from Marxism.


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