DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a man fatally shot by DeKalb County police wants accountability. The DeKalb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led a justice rally alongside Matthew Zadok Williams's family and supporters.
Williams, 35, died in April after police said he lunged at officers with a knife. His family is demanding that Sgt. Devon Perry, who announced his name on body camera footage and who the family believes fired the fatal shots, be terminated immediately from the DeKalb County Police Department.
“We have had the displeasure of looking at over 10 hours of body cam footage, and nothing in that footage showed that Sergeant Perry should have shot into my brother’s home, nothing," Williams's sister Hahnah said.
Police were initially called out to Williams's home, thinking he was a prowler. On the body camera footage, Williams is seen holding a blue ceramic knife. He told officers it was his home and that he was defending his property.
Officers asked Williams to drop the knife 47 times. Police said Williams lunged at officers, prompting one shot. Moments later, Williams retreated inside his home. At one point, the door cracked open, one officer said they were there to help Williams and three gunshots were fired.
"He had a huge heart," Williams's sister Deborah said. "My brother was a huge family man. He loved us and we loved him very much. My brother was very peaceful and gentle, and to know he died the way that he did is a terrible atrocity.”
Williams' family said he was having a mental health crisis, and they believe officers did not immediately try and help Williams after the shooting.
"While their job is difficult, and we respect the work they have to do, they have to do it with the same level of care that any of us if we were out protecting our lives or defending our lives…that we would have to do," family attorney Mawuli Davis said. "This fight and each fight is important for us to maintain and keep shedding a bright light for what these families are going through and why the community needs to support this, because it could be your family tomorrow.”
In May, the family spoke with the DeKalb County District Attorney and asked to have charges filed against the officers involved. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is currently looking into the shooting. Once its investigation is complete, the GBI will turn its findings over to the District Attorney, which will then determine if charges are warranted.
Williams's family has collected more than $33,000 through an online fundraiser to raise awareness about the shooting and pay off legal fees. The DA has previously said it could take months for the GBI to complete its investigation.
The status of the officers involved in the deadly shooting of Williams is unclear. 11Alive reached out to DeKalb Police but has not heard back yet. DeKalb County Police Chief Mirtha Ramos spoke to 11Alive a few days after the shooting, saying she wanted to see how the investigation played out.
"I would hate to speculate on an incident that's so serious," Ramos said. "A person has died, so we don't want to speculate. We want to go ahead and allow the investigation to evolve."