DeKalb County police early Friday morning released bodycam footage and two 911 calls related to a shooting in which at least two officers fired multiple rounds at a Black man who moments later died inside a house he said was his own.
Police and the DeKalb medical examiner’s office did not respond to questions by deadline about whether the shots wounded or killed Matthew Zadok Williams, but Mawuli Davis, an attorney for Williams’ family, said the 35-year-old Black man was hit twice.
Williams, who babysat for his 10 nieces and nephews and liked to trade stocks, had five older sisters who earlier this week demanded that DeKalb County release bodycam footage of the shooting.
The police created an unnecessarily dangerous situation by kicking open a door as they called on Williams to drop a knife and come outside the house in which he had retreated, Davis said.
Moments after kicking open the door, police fired multiple shots at Williams as he appeared to shield himself with a piece of furniture.
Approximately an hour-and-a-half later, a SWAT team entered the house and found Williams dead.
“You don’t have to shoot if you don’t breach,” said Davis. “They don’t kick in the door. They don’t have to shoot.”
DeKalb County did not respond to a request for comment by deadline, and it did not provide the names of the officers involved in the incident.
‘I’m Defending My Property’
On Monday, April 12, at least one person living in a woody neighborhood close to Wesley Chapel Road and Interstate 20 called 911 to report that a “seemingly homeless” man was outside with a knife.
“I need somebody,” the caller said, “to take him away.”
The recently released body camera footage shows that when DeKalb County police arrived they asked Williams a series of questions near the entrance to a two-story house.
Williams agreed to leave the area, but when he started walking toward one of the officers, he lunged at the officer with a knife. Amid a scramble, another officer fired one shot at Williams, who ran off.
A few minutes later, he reentered the house by breaking through a second-story window. Three officers knocked on the door of the house and asked Williams to come out.
“If you want us to leave, you got to let us know something,” said an officer, who identified himself as a supervisor, without elaborating.
Another officer kicked down the door. The officers drew weapons, and Williams scrambled for cover behind a piece of furniture close to the door, as the officers yelled at him to “put the knife down.”
Williams pushed the door shut, and an officer kicked it open again, then an officer fired at Williams through the cracked door.
“I’m defending my property,” Williams said to the officers.
“You a Black man; I’m a Black man. You don’t have to die today. I don’t want you to die today,” said the supervising officer. “We’re here to help you.”
Suddenly, one of the officers fired three shots as all three near the door stepped back, and the door was closed from the inside.
“We gonna back off,” said the supervising officer, as the other officers walked away from the door.
Family Sees Mental Health Crisis
Approximately an hour later, two officers knocked on the door again, and there was no audible response from inside.
A SWAT team arrived approximately 15 minutes after that and appeared to easily enter the house. According to a preliminary report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the SWAT team found Williams dead inside.
Davis, the attorney, said Williams’ family believes Williams may have survived if he was provided medical attention more quickly.
“After they fire the shots, they don’t want to go in and make sure he’s OK?” said Davis. “That’s the issue.”
Williams’ family described him as a compassionate pacifist, and Davis said the family believes Williams was in the midst of a mental health crisis like they’d never seen before.
Davis said Williams’ family has compassion for the officer who he lunged at with a knife, and for the officer who shot at Williams in that moment, but Davis said once Williams retreated inside the house, the officers should have let him be and called for help.
“The proper course of action would have been to call in a negotiation team and call in mental health experts because he’s having a mental health crisis,” said Davis.