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Why Was 17-Year-Old Girl Shot By Police Officer on California Freeway?

Inside Edition logo Inside Edition 5 days ago CAITLIN NOLAN
a woman smiling for the camera: Hannah Williams later died in hospital. Her family is demanding answers. © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Hannah Williams later died in hospital. Her family is demanding answers.

A 17-year-old California girl was shot and killed by a police officer on a freeway nearly a week ago, and officials have yet to clarify exactly what prompted the shooting.

At about 7 p.m. Friday, a Fullerton Police officer radioed that he had been involved in a shooting on the eastbound SR 91 freeway in Anaheim, Anaheim Police said in a statement.

"A female suspect was struck by gunfire and was transported to a local hospital where she later died," Anaheim police said.

The officer was not injured in the shooting. Police did not name the girl who died, citing her age, but family members identified her as Hannah Williams. 

Officials said an “item appearing to be a handgun” was found at the scene. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s office said in a press release Tuesday the item found was a “replica handgun designed to look identical to a Beretta 92 FS handgun.”

They said the officer was driving his marked police SUV to take his K-9 to a veterinarian for a procedure when “he encountered” the girl. 

What occurred next was not immediately clear, but the D.A.’s statement said the officer-involved shooting then took place. 

"We want to know why police felt the need to shoot and kill a 17-year-old unarmed teen girl," Hannah's father Benson Williams said to CNN.

A photo of the replica gun showed it did not have a bright orange tip, as required by federal law to indicate it was not real. 

Rev. Jarrett Maupin, acting as a spokesperson for Hannah’s family, said it was not clear if the replica gun belonged to Hannah.

"We maintain that she was unarmed, a fake gun is a fake gun," Maupin said during a press conference Tuesday, NBC reported.

An independent autopsy requested by Hannah's family will be performed once her body is released by the county. Hannah’s family has also called for an independent investigation led by the state and for the officer to be suspended without pay. 

“Losing Hannah is hard,” Lynette Campbell, Hannah's godmother, said on behalf of the family to reporters Tuesday. “The circumstances in which we lost her make it that much harder. As of today we still do not have clear answers as to what happened to Hannah. The information that we have received from the police department has changed several times."

Hannah and her family had moved to the area from Phoenix less than a year ago. She worked as a lifeguard and had spent Friday with her family before leaving that evening, Maupin said.

Anaheim Police said on Twitter Tuesday bodycam footage will be released by the Fullerton Police department “soon.” 

“All of the questions will ultimately be answered,” Anaheim Police said on Twitter Saturday. “The freeway was packed and all potential witnesses need to be interviewed first. We cannot risk influencing someone's statement, by releasing details prematurely.

“This happened at 7 p.m. on a Friday night on one of the busiest freeways in the southland."

A new law that went into effect July 1 requires police to release body camera footage within 45 days of an incident, officials said. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s office is investigating whether the shooting was legally justified. Such an investigation could take up to a year, authorities said.

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