EXCLUSIVE: Bodycam video shows man with knife moments before police shot, killed him

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has obtained bodycam video of the moments police say they were forced to shoot and kill a man in DeKalb County.

At one point, an officer made an emotional plea for the man to surrender.

The family of Matthew Williams told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne Wednesday that they wanted police to release the video of the incident.

Winne obtained the video exclusively Thursday and DeKalb County’s police chief walked him through what happened.

Early in the bodycam video, there is little to indicate the violence that would erupt in a confrontation between Dekalb County police and a man later identified as Williams.

In one section of the video, you can hear what seems to be a single gunshot.

The video shows what DeKalb County Police Chief Mirtha Ramos confirmed later to be a knife.

She said in a picture taken after the incident was over, the knife had been moved from near where Williams’ body was.

Ramos said a woman called 911 twice.

“She stated she went to go to her vehicle, she encountered the male, he had a knife in his hand and he pulled it out on her, but then he pushed it to the side and went away. So she said she was fearful and the police had not arrived yet and she wanted to know when they would be there,” Ramos said is what the woman told 911 in her second call to them.

Ramos said Williams retreated into the house. The bodycam video of the incident showed Williams breaking a window to get in and an officer then kicks open the door.

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“He’s behind the ottoman and as you can see, you see the sliver of the blue knife in his right hand,” Ramos said.

She says officers repeatedly pleaded with Williams from outside to put down the knife.

“Please sir, from one black man to another black man, you don’t have to die today. I don’t want you to die today. Put the knife down,” one of the officers told Williams.

In another flurry of activity, another shot is fired and a Taser is deployed. At one point in the video it sounds as if an officer is begging him to put the knife down.

It remains unclear what officers saw before eventually firing what sounds like three shots.

“At least the body worn camera footage can let people know that there indeed was a knife and that the officers did the best that they could in communicating with him not to reach to this level,” Ramos said. “It’s a sad day when we have to end our day this way. But we also know that it’s a sad day for Mr. Williams’ family and we will do all we can to make sure that we do a thorough, clear and fair investigation.”

Ramos said she was limited on what she could say about the because of the ongoing investigation by her department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The attorney for Williams’ family, Mawuli Davis, said that the family expresses their gratitude to the police chief and indicated to DeKalb CEO Michael Thurman also for releasing the video.

Williams’ sister, Hannah, expressed her gratitude for having the video released late Thursday night after Winne’s story aired on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m.

“I know for a fact the way we’re standing and the way we’re able to stand today is because of our faith. And because of our faith, Chief Ramos and DeKalb County released that video as we asked. And again, I can’t thank them enough,” Hannah Williams said.

Thurman said it was clear that Williams was having a mental health crisis and he believes negotiators could have saved his life. Davis echoed his sentiment Thursday night.

“What we saw was a young man who was having a mental health crisis. And we believe that when he was having that crisis outside of his home, that the officers acted in self-preservation mode. But once he entered his home, and his home was his sanctuary, we believe that at that point, knowing that he was having a mental health crisis, that they should have brought out negotiators and mental health experts, and even contacted his loving family in order to get him to come out,” Davis said.

“He retreated in his own home. He was in his sanctuary. He was behind closed doors. He was no longer a threat,” said Hannah Williams.