Crime and Safety

Dad of slain Indiana tourist Ethan Williams slams NY pols over crime, bail reform

The grieving father of Ethan Williams — the 20-year-old Indiana tourist gunned down in the Big Apple — on Monday slammed New York politicians over their “silence,” saying elected leaders aren’t doing enough to stifle surging crime.

Without mentioning her by name, Jason Williams referenced a comment Gov. Kathy Hochul made during a debate with Republican challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin last month when she questioned why he was so focused on crime.

“To hear one candidate say to another, ‘I’m not sure why that’s so important to you’ in regards to crime surges in New York is tone-deaf to the suffering of families like mine,” Williams told The Post. “Tone-deaf toward women, such as the jogger raped in Manhattan just last week. And tone-deaf towards surges of violence against Asian Americans.”

Williams, whose son was shot dead on Oct. 23, 2020, while vacationing with friends in Brooklyn, warned that “what happens in New York ripples throughout the nation.”

“The weight of silence of your elected leaders has not gone unnoticed,” he said.

Jason Williams, father of slain 20-year-old tourist.
Jason Williams says New York pols aren’t doing enough about crime. His son, Ethan, was shot dead in Brooklyn in 2020.

More than two years after his son’s murder, police arrested a suspect last week, William Freeman, an alleged career criminal with nine prior arrests for drugs, assault and petty larceny dating back to 2013. Most of the cases have since been sealed, but records show he was busted for gun possession on Sept. 8, 2018, in a domestic violence assault case on April 27, 2019 and most recently in January on a petit larceny rap, all in Manhattan.

“My son is dead because a criminal with nine previous arrests was free, walking the streets of New York City,” Williams said Monday.

“I will also note that even though my son was a high-profile victim and one of the only tourists to be gunned down in many years, with national news coverage, not once did I receive condolences from [then] Mayor [Bill] de Blasio, Mayor [Eric] Adams or [then] Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo,” he said.

He said only the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD have stepped up in his son’s case.

Ethan Williams, 20.
Ethan Williams, 20, was shot and killed in a mistaken-identity gang shooting in 2020.
Williams family

Freeman, 26, is accused of firing at Ethan and his friends as they sat on the stoop of their Bushwick Airbnb, allegedly because he believed one of the pals was a rival gang member.

He already had a warrant out for his arrest in the January petit larceny case when cops stopped him Thursday night in a car with no front license plate and not wearing a seat belt, according to prosecutors.

Freeman was allegedly caught trying to steal baby formula and cigarette lighters from a Manhattan retailer on Jan. 3, according to a criminal complaint filed in that case. He was charged with attempted petty larceny, as well as possession of a weapon for allegedly having a switchblade on him, but was released and ordered to take part in a court-ordered opportunity program — only to skip out on future court appearances.

An arrest warrant was issued for him in June, but Freeman’s remained free until his arrest Thursday. Brooklyn prosecutors said he later confessed on tape to the 2020 shooting.

But Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Leigh Cheng, at Freeman’s arraignment on Friday, set bail on the alleged killer at $350,000 cash over the objections of prosecutors, who wanted him to be held behind bars without any bail.

Jason Williams and his son, Ethan Williams.
Jason Williams (left) says elected officials in New York haven’t done enough to curb the urban violence that cost his 20-year-old son, Ethan, his life.

Freeman remained at Rikers Island on the high bail Monday — but the decision to set any bail in the case came as a shock to the victim’s father.

“Much of the conversation around bail reform has become nothing more than a boxing match over which elections are being decided,” Williams noted.

“I’m also aware, sadly, that this has become a political issue,” he added. “For my part, however, I do not see this as a political issue, but rather a human one.

“It doesn’t matter what side of the line you are on when you answer the phone to be told that your child has been ‘shot. And Mr. Williams — it’s really bad.’”

The judge’s decision comes on the eve of New York’s gubernatorial elections, in which Hochul, a Democrat, is facing a serious challenge from Zeldin, who has been running on a tough-on-crime platform.

Scene of Ethan Williams shooting in Brunswick.
Police said Ethan Williams was with friends outside a Bushwick vacation rental when he was shot and killed in an alleged gang shooting.
Gregory P. Mango

“I would say that regardless of your politics, Republican or Democrat, this is a serious problem for New Yorkers and a problem you must deal with before, God forbid, your phone rings,” Williams said.

Williams said the Airbnb where his son was staying with his pals had a five-star rating — but the company has since refused to talk to him or answer his questions about the tragedy. He has since signed an agreement to appear in an upcoming docuseries about safety at Airbnb locations, he said.

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