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Family to present 40,000 signatures to DeKalb district attorney, calling for charges against officer

The family maintains Williams was experiencing a mental health episode and questions why a mental health unit wasn't called to the home.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Activists and the family of Matthew “Zadok” Williams will present a 40,000 signature petition to the DeKalb County District Attorney. They plan to do so on the one-year anniversary of Williams’ death.

In the last 52 weeks, Williams’ mother and five sisters, held protests and vigils weekly, as they wait to hear what will happen to the officer who shot him. It’s a long time, they say, to still have questions.

“What good are mental health policies? What good are police policies when leadership won’t hold their own accountable?” asked Williams’ mom, Chris Ann Lewis.

Williams was killed by police after they were called because of a suspicious person lurking around a home. The home, however, belonged to Williams, who told police it was his property.

“And he’s dead?” Lewis said at a one-year anniversary vigil for her son. “Because they refused to believe him when he said he owned that property and he lived there?”

Body camera footage shows Williams holding a blue ceramic knife, outside his home. He told officers 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 gunshots were fired.

The family long maintained Williams was experiencing a mental health episode and questioned why a mental health unit wasn't called to the home.

“There was no need to shoot bullets into Mr. Zadok’s home!,” Devon Barrington-Ward said, an activist with Black Futurist Group, one of the groups helping the family call for charges against the officer.

“Will they do the right thing and will they relieve this family of grief that no family should know?” Barrington-Ward asked Monday night.

The family said the officer broke several protocols, including failure to contact S.W.A.T., officers not keeping their distance during a reported mental health crisis, excessive force, and failure to render aid.

“My whole life has been altered," Lewis said. "It’s like David versus Goliath. DeKalb County is a big force. But just as David had a victory, so shall we.”

The GBI investigated the shooting. The officer is reportedly still on duty and was never charged with a crime. Lewis and her daughters want the DA to pursue a case against the officer.

“We were told that it would be six months, from the time she (the district attorney) got the GBI file until she released a decision and we’re still waiting," Williams' sister Hahnah said. 

The family plans to deliver the petition to the DeKalb County Courthouse on Tuesday at noon, and plan to continue protesting until they receive answers to their questions.

"Every day when a decision is not made, it is hurtful to me and my family. We cannot even reach the next stage of grieving until we know what accountability looks like in Dekalb County," Hahnah said.

The DA previously said there is no timeframe to make a determination regarding any action in the case. The case remains under investigation.

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