Three days after his father's execution, the 27-year-old son of D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad said Friday that he doesn't want to be judged by the crimes of a father he didn't really know until the shooting spree.
Striking an almost defensive chord, Lindbergh Williams told reporters, "I am the son of the D.C. sniper, but not him. You see what I'm saying? I am my own man and make my own decisions."
Muhammad was put to death Tuesday in Virginia for killing Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station during an October 2002 shooting spree that left 10 people dead and terrorized Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., over a three-week period.
Muhammad, formerly known as John Allen Williams, grew up in Baton Rouge, where his son now lives. His family is planning a funeral Tuesday in the city but said the details weren't yet available.
His son said he was with his father the day of his execution, but they didn't talk about the killings. Instead, Williams said his father embraced him, told him that he loved and missed his family and talked about "old times." Muhammad was in good spirits and even smiled and told jokes, his son said.
"I didn't go to Virginia to talk about the case. I went to Virginia to talk to the man that I knew as my father, for the last time," Williams said. "I didn't go down there to talk to the D.C. sniper. I went down there to talk to John Allen Muhammad."
Williams called reporters to organize Friday's impromptu press conference, also attended by aunt and uncle, Sheron and Ronald Norman. Standing near the local courthouse, Williams said he organized the gathering so he could tell his own story.
Sheron Norman said some of the statements from the victims' family members in the days leading to Muhammad's execution were disturbing, comments that she said involved "cutting down (Muhammad's) seed" _ his children.
"Love is unconditional. And he is not responsible for anything that John did," she said of Williams. "He is not responsible."
Williams apologized to the victims' families.
"I am deeply sympathetic for you. You have been in my prayers since the incident had happened, all of you. And even though a lot of you may have some negativity against me, I understand, but I do not hold that against y'all at all," he said.
Muhammad masterminded the sniper shootings with the help of a teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the attacks. Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without parole for one of the killings.
The men also were suspected of fatal shootings in other states, including Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Arizona. In Baton Rouge, the pair were accused in the death of Hong Im Ballenger, killed during a September 2002 robbery at the beauty products shop she managed. The case was never brought to trial.
Williams was Muhammad's son by his first wife, Carol. The marriage lasted from 1981 to 1988, and Muhammad later remarried, had three more children and divorced again. Williams said his father wasn't a part of his life before the sniper shootings. But after Muhammad's arrest, Williams said he began talking to his father on the phone and exchanging letters with him.
"I got to know him in the end," Williams said.