Lawyer for family of DeKalb man shot by cops: ‘They left him to die’

Credit: Shaddi Abusaid /

Credit: Shaddi Abusaid /

Private pathologist hired to examine April 12 death

A private pathologist hired by the family of Matthew Zadok Williams, shot dead April 12 in his condominium by DeKalb County police officers after he threatened one of their own with a knife, said the 35-year-old could have survived had police acted with greater urgency.

Attorney Mawuli Davis, who represents Williams’ family, said more than an hour elapsed between the shooting and the discovery of his body by a SWAT officer. It’s unclear how long Williams had had been dead. At a news conference last week, Williams’ family questioned why he received no medical attention after he was shot.

“They left him to die,” Davis said.

And why, they ask, was he shot at all? He had been contained to his Snapfinger Woods Drive condo, and while armed with a knife, he was surrounded by police. There was no imminent threat to public safety, Davis said.

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

Jackson Gates, the pathologist hired by the family, said preliminary findings revealed “some hemorrhaging, which gave me the idea it was a slow bleed.”

“That gave me the impression that he dropped his blood pressure really, really quick,” Gates said. “Which means he wasn’t quite dead and could’ve been salvageable. "

DeKalb police stressed different aspects of the case more than a week ago, releasing body camera video showing Williams chasing after an officer outside his condo, knife in hand.

In the ensuing standoff, an officer can be heard telling Williams, “Let me see you throw (the knife) down. You throw it down, we’ll put our stuff down.”

“I’m begging you,” the unidentified officer continued. “You’re a Black man. I’m a Black man. You don’t have to die today.”

Williams refused to surrender, saying he was defending his property. Police had been called to the scene by a resident of the complex. She told them Williams’ condo was vacant, and initially officers tried to get him to leave the scene.

“It was a deadly error to communicate that wasn’t his home,” Davis said. Police treated him like a trespasser, not a homeowner, said the lawyer, which likely influenced their decision to kick the door down in a show of force.

Family members acknowledge the first shot, fired outside of the condo by one officer in defense of another, was reasonable.

“The analysis cannot stop at that door,” Davis said.

On Sunday, Williams’ name was repeated, along with other victims of alleged excessive force by police, by roughly 100 demonstrators during a march from the Midtown MARTA station to Piedmont Park.

His sisters vowed to keep the pressure on police, demanding they release the entirety of the body cam footage. They met last week with GBI Director Vic Reynolds, whose agency is investigating the shooting.

In a statement, DeKalb County spokesman Andrew Cauthen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Due to the ongoing investigation, only two of the videos have been released, and we cannot comment on the specifics of the case.”