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EXCLUSIVE: Former DA Seth Williams Calls On Philly Leaders To Declare City's Gun Violence Problem Public Health Emergency

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is speaking to CBS3 after spending several years in prison. The former DA is talking about Philadelphia's gun violence problem.

Williams says it's time to declare a public health emergency.

In the time since he left prison on an early release because of COVID-19, Williams says he has confronted his own demons -- the self-medicating he believes brought down his career as Philadelphia's top prosecutor.

"For me personally, I self-medicated with martinis and Jack Daniels. As the DA, I had two cellphones, two Blackberrys. One went off -- I'm sure like yours, Joe -- every shooting, every rape, decapitations. I numbed myself with alcohol," Williams said.

Williams agreed to do this interview hours after eight people were shot last Wednesday in North Philadelphia -- a bloody mass shooting scene that sits in the shadows of landmarks important to him.

"Just the sheer madness of eight people being shot," Williams said. "It was very personal. So, I thought, I have a unique perspective as both a former DA, a father, a Central grad, and as a former federal inmate to talk about what we need to do, what my perspective is, another possible solution to reducing the gun violence."

On Monday, Williams chose a snowy lawn full of t-shirts memorializing those dead as a result of gun violence to do the interview.

Like what has happened in other cities, Williams believes Philadelphia leaders must declare a public health emergency to counter the spiking number of shootings.

"People think that there's no accountability now, that there's no certainty of punishment," Williams said. "Again, it's not the severity. It's not that you have to hold people accountable and send them away forever. It's just that people feel as though that nothing is going to happen and so we have to change that."

A spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney's administration declined to comment for our report.

Williams acknowledged his checkered past, but argues, why not speak up?

"We maintain the status quo. That what we're saying is those lives of those young Black and Brown men don't matter. That's why I'm angry. We have to do more and we can," Williams said.

Williams says he knows he's open to criticism for speaking out. He says he's doing so because of his children and his grandchildren, and says he wants to be part of the solution.

For a list of gun violence resources in Philadelphia, click here.

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