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No charges in Matthew Zadok Williams police shooting death; DA says use of force was 'justified'

11Alive's Brittany Kleinpeter was told by Williams' family after they met with DeKalb DA Sherry Boston that there would be no charges.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston will not be bringing charges in the police shooting case last year of a man at his own home during what his family has long contended was a mental health crisis, the family said Tuesday.

Matthew Zadok Williams was shot and killed after a lengthy standoff with DeKalb County Police Department officers in April 2021. His family told 11Alive's Brittany Kleinpeter after a meeting that there would be no charges.

Boston in a news conference Tuesday evening said they "found the use of force in this case was justified."

Williams' mother, Chris Lewis said she's in shock and devastated by the decision.

"The police leadership in Dekalb County is not willing to hold their own accountable...this is not over. My son's death will not be in vain," Lewis added.

The family had waited more than a year for a resolution in the case.

"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," Williams' sister, Hahnah, told 11Alive's Hope Ford in April as one year since Zadok's death approached.

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

Police had originally been called to a home Williams owned by a neighbor who wrongly reported a prowler. A portion of police bodycam video was released after the incident and showed Williams lunging at an officer with a knife, then running inside his home after being shot at by another officer.

He was asked 47 times by an officer in the video, identified as Sgt. Devon Perry with DeKalb PD, to come out and drop the knife. 

"I’m begging you. You’re a Black man. I’m a Black man. You don’t have to die today. I don’t want you to die today," Sgt. Devon Perry with DeKalb PD says at one point, with Williams saying, "I’m defending my property." 

Police said Williams eventually lunged at officers, prompting one shot. 

Last year, The New Yorker published an extensive review of the case that included new portions of bodycam footage and showed Perry telling a lieutenant who arrives on scene that Williams "came again towards the door with the knife" before later answering, "No," when someone asked him if Williams actually lunged at him.

In its review of footage, the New Yorker report noted: "None of the body cameras show Zadok doing anything to provoke the gunfire. He doesn’t become visible, much less cross the threshold of the door prior to Perry firing at him." In response, a DeKalb County spokesman told the magazine, “The body-cam video does not fully capture the interaction between Mr. Williams and the officer.”

The New Yorker report also outlined how EMTs were on site after Williams was shot, but prevented from going inside and providing help because, DeKalb County said, "Fire Rescue policy prohibited EMTs from rendering aid at a crime scene until it is deemed safe by the police department."

It has remained unexplained why DKPD wouldn't clear the area as safe as Williams was dying inside.

Williams' family long questioned why Perry wasn't fired, and staged regular protests and demonstrations outside Boston's office for a year. 

They also gave a petition to Boston with nearly 40,000 signatures demanding action on the case. They say their fight isn't over and they have plans to continue to promote metal health awareness as they fight for justice for Williams.

At his funeral, he was remembered as a self-made success who, despite being the youngest of six siblings, became a family pillar his mother and five sisters leaned on.

"I think about all the good times I had - 35 years of good days with my brother, not one bad," his sister Kaya Williams said. "I'm going to challenge myself and reflect on 35 years of great times with my brother, until April 12 when they took him from us. But they cant take the memory of his spirit from us. It lives on, they can never take that from us."

   

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