Family of Clayton County man killed by police wants body camera footage released

Sheryl Calhoun (third from left) talks to reporters about the death of her husband Charles Calhoun, who was shot and killed by Clayton County police outside the couple's Jonesboro home early March 23. She's joined by family members and Mawuli Davis, a Decatur attorney representing the family.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Sheryl Calhoun (third from left) talks to reporters about the death of her husband Charles Calhoun, who was shot and killed by Clayton County police outside the couple's Jonesboro home early March 23. She's joined by family members and Mawuli Davis, a Decatur attorney representing the family.

Family members of a man killed by police outside his Jonesboro home last month are demanding the release of body camera footage from the officer-involved shooting.

Charles Calhoun, 68, was shot by Clayton County police in the 9100 block of Jenni Circle early the morning of March 23. Police said he pointed a gun at officers and refused commands to drop his weapon.

Mawuli Davis, a Decatur attorney representing Calhoun’s family, met with reporters Friday in a home that loved ones said the man built himself in 1997. Davis was flanked by Calhoun’s wife, sister and two children.

“They took my daddy away from me,” Calhoun’s daughter, Chelsea, said as she wiped away tears. “He was my son’s best friend, and I don’t know how I’m going to help him heal with this.”

The call for transparency came on the eve of Calhoun’s funeral. Grieving family members still in disbelief from the shooting remembered him as a stoic and loving family man who they said was worried that his home was being burglarized when he encountered police on his property that morning.

“This man was not a criminal. This man was a homeowner who built this house,” Davis said. “And as he sought to protect his home, as every American has a right to do, he ends up dead. Those questions have to be answered.”

Calhoun’s wife, Sheryl, said the couple’s house was targeted by burglars in February when someone tossed a brick through a back window. She said that put her husband on heightened alert.

She told reporters he was a COVID-19 survivor who had lingering issues with his lungs and legs. He had trouble walking and was prone to fall because he was unsteady on his feet, she said.

Family members of Charles Calhoun said he was not a violent man during a press conference in the family home Friday.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Sheryl Calhoun was at her mother’s home in Atlanta the night of the incident. She said Charles called her and told her that he heard what sounded like someone trying to break in. On her phone, she checked surveillance cameras in the back of the house and didn’t see anything. But the batteries were low on the cameras on the other side of the house, preventing her from checking the front yard.

That’s when she said Charles Calhoun went outside to investigate for himself.

“I wish I had been home with him,” Sheryl Calhoun said. “I could’ve been his legs.”

The GBI is investigating the fatal shooting. Clayton County police Chief Kevin Roberts said Charles Calhoun was lying prone on his chest in the road with his weapon aimed at officers when they arrived.

But family members suspect he lost his footing and tried to use his shotgun to prop himself back up when police showed up.

“We believe that he fell and as he was getting up, that was a part of what led to his shooting,” Davis said.

Charles Calhoun’s daughter, Chelsea, screams at Clayton County police, “You killed my father,” as she's pulled away from the scene March 23.

Credit: John Spink

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Credit: John Spink

The shooting happened before dawn. According to police, neighbors reported a man walking through the neighborhood who fired several gunshots before and after officers arrived. The neighbors directed officers to Calhoun, who was in his pajamas armed with a long gun.

Davis questioned how police approached the scene, saying SWAT team officers crept up on Charles Calhoun from behind the house as he was in the road out front looking for burglars. He suggested the officers never clearly announced themselves as law enforcement and didn’t arrive with lights and sirens on, which he said would’ve alerted Calhoun that they were officers.

“When you’re concerned that there’s a burglar that is approaching your home, you don’t know who’s who and what’s what. It’s a confusing time,” Davis said.

Davis said bodycam footage from the shooting would help resolve many of the unanswered questions. He said he sent Roberts a letter Friday asking for the footage to be shown to the family. He’s also requesting that the chief meet with family members to go over evidence and allow them to share call records.

Police officials, who did not respond to a request for comment, confirmed the department had not received Davis’ letter by Friday afternoon.

Calhoun, an Alabama native, was a retiree who worked many years for the Ford Motor Company. His sister, Marcella Biedleman, remembered him as a gentle giant who stayed to himself.

She told reporters he was not a violent man and refuted the notion that he was roaming the road outside his home incoherently.

“I just want it straight that he was in his right mind,” Biedleman said. “He wasn’t walking up and down the street like no crazy man. He was trying to protect what he thought was his.”

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