Body cam footage raises questions following fatal police shooting

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

‘Please, sir. I’m begging you,’ officer is heard saying. ‘You’re a Black man. I’m a Black man.’

The family of Matthew Zadok Williams, shot dead in his condominium April 12 by a DeKalb County police officer, met this week with DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.

Boston will decide whether the officer who fired the fatal shot will face criminal charges.

The officer hasn’t been identified.

”I don’t want you to die today. Put the knife down,” an officer can be heard telling Williams on body cam footage. “Let me see you throw (the knife) down. You throw it down, we’ll put our stuff down. Can you do that for us, please? Please, sir. I’m begging you. You’re a Black man. I’m a Black man. You don’t have to die today.”

Mawuli Davis, the attorney for Williams’ family, said additional footage released by police raises questions.

”Why was the decision made to knock down the door and shoot him?” he asked. “There’s no reason to create this danger for (Williams) or the officers.”

DeKalb police said Williams left them with no choice. Body cam footage previously released appears to show Williams chasing after an officer outside his home with a knife in his hand. The video appears to show one officer stumble outside the home as Williams chases after them with the knife. A second officer fired a single shot and Williams is seen falling to the ground before getting back up and running away.

Davis said body cam footage does not show Williams lunging at police after he entered the home. Officers retreated after the shooting. A DeKalb SWAT officer discovered Williams’ lifeless body more an hour later.

The case has sparked outrage.

”Matthew Zadok Williams should be alive today,” state Rep. Renita Shannon, D-Decatur, said at a recent news conference. “He had a bad mental health day and DeKalb County Police killed him over it.”

A pathologist hired by Williams’ family said, after conducting a preliminary review, that his life could’ve been saved had medics been immediately dispatched.

Body cam footage captured a conversation between one of the officers on the scene and a SWAT commander. The two men discuss the possibility Williams is “bleeding out” and share a nervous laugh, footage shows. The commander warns it would be at least another hour before the SWAT team arrives.

The GBI investigation into the shooting is ongoing. Davis said Boston is waiting to review those findings and pledged to have a decision on possible charges within six months.

Two 911 calls summoned police the to scene. In the first one, a caller says, “There’s a very suspicious man who’s been lurking around the woods around my house. We can’t see what he’s doing and I don’t want to go outside ... I don’t know if he’s armed or not ... I think he’s homeless. But he’s kind of just lurking in the woods and going in and out of his pockets around our house.”

In a second call, the caller tells a dispatcher the man approached her with a knife as she walked to her car. She asked the police to send someone quickly.

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