DeKalb police warned about need to render aid after deadly shooting, but didn’t, body cam shows

DECATUR, Ga. — Body camera footage requested and examined by Channel 2 Action News reveals DeKalb police warned one another about their requirement to render aid to a man they shot, but failed to do so for more than an hour, Officers on the scene cited the lack of equipment on scene to properly deem it safe ahead of SWAT’s arrival.

The man, Matthew Zadok Williams, died in his Decatur home after being shot through the doorway multiple times during an April incident.

The footage raises questions for the family and its legal team about how Williams bled out and died.

The county added Wednesday that fire personnel wanted to render aid, and could not.

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“DCFR EMTs were on the scene and inquired about going in to render aid, but per policy, could not render aid until the scene was deemed safe by the police department,” a statement read.

The aftermath of Williams’ shooting, covered in-depth by Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr, offers a more complete look at the case, in which the man’s family says he was having a mental health crisis. It comes as Williams’ family, attorney, a state senator and activists sought to explain the scenario in a Wednesday morning meeting with DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.

DeKalb police responded to Williams’ neighborhood in April, after a 911 caller falsely claimed he was homeless and did not belong there. Williams had owned the condo for years. The caller went on to tell police Williams pulled a knife, and covered it when she saw him as he avoided her. Another witness said he ran off at the sound of nearby sirens.

When police arrived on scene, one officer noted he believed Williams lived in the complex, but sought to engage him to leave the property if he did not reside there. Williams was unresponsive when approached by police. He then took off running behind  an officer with a knife, as the officer’s partner fired the first shot.

Williams would jump through a window and hide behind an ottoman before police kicked in the door, continuing to plead with him to drop the knife, saying they didn’t want to kill him. Williams , who continuously closes the door, can be heard telling the officers they broke into his home without a warrant. He keeps asking them to identify themselves, as they have, and back up.

“My property, sir,” Williams warns.

“Come on out and talk to me then,”  Perry answers. “Then we’ll leave.”

After a tasing, multiple shots are fired from the doorway. Police back up and  no one enters the home until SWAT arrives an hour and a half later. On Wednesday, DeKalb County confirmed emergency personnel from the fire department wanted to render aid, but followed county protocol in awaiting police to deem the scene safe.

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In the newly released video, the shooting officer identified as Sgt. Perry, tells a supervisor that Williams did not outright lunge at police before the shooting, and he wasn’t sure whether he’d hit Williams in close range.

“He lunged at you or what?” a supervisor asks.

“No, he , he was in at the door,” Perry answers. “I gave him the demand to put the knife down. He came at the door with a knife. I was like he came to the doorway. That’s what it felt like to me.”

In body cam footage marked ‘Lt. James,’ another SWAT officer identified as Sgt. Swain warns over the phone that they are responsible for rendering aid if they shot Williams.

“Once he fired , we backed out,” Lt. James says over the phone.

“He backed out?,”  Swain asks. “Lord Have Mercy.”

“But he could be in there bleeding out,” Swain continues.

“Yeah,” James answers.

“I don’t know about that, Jack,” Swain laughs. “It’s gonna be an hour before we even get there.”

“I need you to think about that, though,” Swain continues. “If ‘ole boy in there bleeding out. Because if you think he bleeding out, it’s on us if we shot him to still provide aid. I’ll just throw that out there.”

But DeKalb didn’t provide aid. Police note on scene that the bunker, the shields they need to enter and clear the home, is not on scene. They’re located at a precinct and someone is sent to retrieve them.

A county spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that the police units are not required to have them on each shift, although another supervising officer who consoles a visibly upset Perry following the shooting  goes on to tell another officer they should.

“Hey, from now on make sure bunker is always on them,” the officer is heard in the footage. “Make sure when shift change it’s always on them.”

On Wednesday morning, Williams’ family met with District Attorney Sherry Boston for the first time.

Outside the courthouse were the sounds of chants.

“Justice for Georgia. Georgia has a problem!” Britt Jones-Churkura sang.

Her Justice for Georgia non-profit counterpart Hannah Gebresilassie yelled into a megaphone.

“You leave him in his home for hours! Hours! Zadok could still be with us today if proper aid was rendered!”

“24 hours later, they still hadn’t checked to see that he owned that property and was shot and left to lay on his foyer struggling for air,” said Chris Ann Lewis, Williams’ mother who said police arrived at her door to tell her that her homeless son had been killed.

“Black people across the country are just tired of seeing our lives wasted by police,” Rep. Renitta Shannon added.

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While internal and GBI investigations are ongoing, the group said they want Boston to look beyond the portion of the video showing Williams running with the knife outside, and consider whether he was a true threat behind closed doors at the time of the shooting.

“The use of deadly force because he’s trying to close his own door so he can continue to communicate in what he believes is a safe way….. That’s almost the equivalent of someone not wanting to interact with police and you shoot ‘em in the back,” said family attorney Mawuli Davis. “The law doesn’t allow for that.”

Earlier this month, Channel 2 asked whether Police Chief Mirtha Ramos wanted to interview further about the second half of video. She’d initially weighed in days after the shooting.

On Wednesday afternoon, the county answered ‘no.’

The county also declined to discuss details about SWAT’s arrival, and how long it took to get on scene, citing the pending investigations.

DeKalb County also confirms none of the officers involved in the shooting are on any paid administrative leave amid the investigations.