ATLANTA — Family members and community advocates protested outside the Fulton County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, after they learned that DA Fani Willis will be closing the 2017 police shooting case of a young Atlanta father.
Deaundre Phillips was shot and killed by Atlanta Police officer Yasin Abdulahad in 2017, in an incident where the officer's original narrative was contradicted by surveillance video and which the family continues to question.
According to the original account provided by investigators, Phillips tried to drive off when plainclothes officers approached his car at the Atlanta Public Safety Annex in the 3400 block of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.
Abdulahad said he shot Phillips as he was clinging halfway in and out of the car and being dragged.
But later that year, surveillance video was released that did not appear to show things happening that way. The video is grainy, but appears to show one officer fully inside the car, with the door shutting as the other officer on scene gets left behind.
Attorneys said Phillips was never aggressive toward officers, and his mother, Tyvonna Phillips, said Thursday that he was "asleep minding his own business" in the car when the incident began.
In the years since the shooting of Phillips, at least one other man has come forward to say he'd been beaten before by Abdulahad.
The GBI handed their investigation of the shooting over to the Fulton County DA's Office in May 2017. Former DA Paul Howard said last year he'd planned to bring the case to a grand jury in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Tyvonna Phillips said she was told by Willis the case will not be prosecuted on the grounds that her son was "reaching for his gun." It's not possible to tell from the publicly available surveillance video if that is the case.
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The mother questioned the decision not to prosecute Abdulahad when the officer's original narrative did not precisely hold up to video evidence, saying she was "confused" and "hurt."
"We just want peace, and we want justice," she said Thursday. "That's the only way I'm going to be able to rest, is if I get justice."
Attorney Gerald Griggs, who has been involved in a number of the city's police use-of-force cases, said that it "broke my heart" to hear the Phillips case would not be prosecuted.
Griggs said the family would continue to pursue the case, both by applying pressure to Willis and trying to go above her head.
He noted that there is no statute of limitations for murder in Georgia, and said the case "can always be reopened," making a call for the district attorney to "rethink her decision and put this in front of a grand jury."
Griggs added that the family would consider reaching out to the Georgia attorney general and possibly even U.S. attorney general in order to move the case forward.