DeKalb police respond to critics of officer who shot 911 caller

DeKalb County’s top cop on Friday pushed back against critics who charge an officer wrongly killed a man who called 911 for help. But he said late Friday he will honor their request and seek an independent investigation by the GBI.

“Hindsight is always 20-20,” said Cedric Alexander, public safety director for the county when asked if the officer could have handled the situation differently. “We would like to clarify what happened.”

Kevin Davis, a 44-year-old with no history of trouble with the law, was shot Dec. 29 after Officer Joseph Pitts responded to Davis’ 911 call that a man had stabbed his girlfriend.

What started as standard police response for assistance ended in death after the officer was confronted by Davis’ dog, killed it when he feared it would bite him, and then shot Davis when he appeared with a gun and refused to drop it, said Alexander, a nationally recognized expert on policing.

Davis’ family and supporters, however, likened the killing to “murder” Friday, saying even the police investigation has found no evidence the dead man threatened the officer with the gun. They want the Georgia Bureau on Investigation brought in immediately for an independent inquiry.

“We want to see the GBI open up another investigation so we can have another set of eyes on this murder of my brother,” said Delisa Davis, 51 of Lithonia, the sister of the deceased.

Alexander didn’t say Davis pointed the weapon but that the officer felt threatened when he saw the pistol in Davis’ hand at his side. Davis was shouting at the officer for killing his dog, which was described as a three-legged pit bull, Alexander said.

Asked if Davis would have to point the pistol to be a bona-fide threat, Alexander told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I can’t speak for that officer. That officer had to interpret that threat.”

Pastor Derrick Rice, who met with Alexander Tuesday, said DA Robert James works too closely with DeKalb police to give confidence he will do a thorough and objective investigation. Advocates and family members noted DeKalb Police had found witnessess supporting Pitt’s version of events while they and family attorney Mawuli Mel Davis have found witnesses contradicting it.

“It is not that we are picking a fight,” Davis said. “A man’s life has been lost and we are just asking for another investigation by another agency.”

They said Davis’ girlfriend, April Edwards, who was at the shooting, contends the officer shot without warning after entering the apartment without identifying himself. Edwards, 37, said she and Davis heard the shots at their dog and believed her attacker had returned. Davis picked up a gun and went to investigate. The officer told investigators he banged on the door and shouted, ‘Police’ before entering.

“The police officer’s story varies dramatically from the girlfriend,” said activist Tim Franzen. “But you have to ask, Why would the girlfriend make it up when they are the ones who called police? ”

Alexander took issue with Edward’s recollection.

“We have a witness who heard Pitts say to Davis, ‘Drop that gun,’ and we also have a witness that heard Pitts bang on the door and say, ‘Police,’” Alexander told The AJC.

The police-version of the killing, however, has been met with distrust by some who have become more skeptical about police use of force nationwide, especially since Davis had no record of trouble with the law. At best, they say, the officer shot too quickly without enough evidence of a threat.

Tim Franzen, who was at the meeting between police and religious and civil-rights leaders, said police provided no evidence Davis, perhaps emotional over killing of his dog, did anything more than shout at the officer.

“They said Kevin came to the door, ‘Yelling you killed my dog you killed my dog,’ and he was holding the gun by his side,” Franzen said. “They said the officer told him to drop the gun several times and Kevin continued saying ‘You shot my dog,” and the officer shot him.”

Alexander contended the officer, who has nearly three years on the force and no history of shootings, felt a justifiable fear. The officer heard shouting inside the small apartment when he arrived 8:50 p.m. at at the Marquis Forest Apartments on Pine Tree Circle , Alexander said.

He knocked and entered to investigate, Alexander said. The dog lunged at Pitts, who retreated outside and shot the pit bull after it followed him. Moments later an angry Davis appeared at the door holding the gun and was shot multiple times after he didn’t follow commands to drop it, Alexander said.

The sister, Delisa Davis, doubted Pitts annouced himself because the dog would have caused a ruckus as soon as he knocked. Her brother would have heard him say ‘Police,’ and gone to the door, she said.

The lawyer, Mawuli Davis, said the sister’s account is bolstered by Edward’s recollection.

“They’re freaking out that someone shot the dog - they don’t know the police have shot the dog,” Davis said. “After he leaves the bedroom, she hears the shots, and then she hears, Drop the gun.’

“We interviewed the nextdoor neighbor who also heard the first set of shots at the dog and then the second set of shots.Then he hears, ‘Drop the gun.’”

Davis died two days later.