William Marcus Wilson, a 21-year-old biracial university student, said he was acting in self-defense when he fired shots at another moving vehicle on the highway on the night of June 14. Wilson, his defense attorneys and activists have called it a case of standing your ground, but police in Southwest Georgia — where the incident took place — reportedly have omitted a self-defense angle in public statements.
Wilson said he and his girlfriend were being harassed by a group in a black Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, and that he feared for their lives when he fired shots into the vehicle. Seventeen-year-old high school student Haley Hutcheson was struck in the head by one of the bullets, and died hours later at the hospital. Wilson faces felony murder and aggravated assault charges, but his family and defense attorney say the shooting was an act of self-defense.
According to Wilson’s attorney Francys Johnson, Wilson and his girlfriend were making a late-night trip to Taco Bell when the incident occurred. Johnson said the group of white males in the truck was hanging out of the windows yelling racial slurs at Wilson, and calling his white girlfriend an “N-word lover.” They continued to scream, “Your lives don’t matter!” as they tried to run Wilson’s Ford Focus off the road, said Johnson, who served as the former Georgia NAACP president. Johnson said Wilson fired shots after he heard something strike his car. A supplemental police report says evidence indicates someone may have thrown a beer can at Wilson’s vehicle.
Investigative records released by the Statesboro Police Department include accounts from the passengers in the Silverado truck, who say two or three shots were fired before a final bullet entered through the truck’s back window, striking Hutcheson. She was sitting in the center back seat.
Wilson, a resident of Sharpsburg, Georgia, has been held in the jail in Bulloch County since June 17, when he turned himself into police. Police records show no bond is set for him. While the “stand your ground” law allows people, under certain circumstances, to use force to defend themselves without first attempting to retreat or back down, Statesboro police said evidence points away from that scenario in this case. The Georgia NAACP and other activists expressed that this case indicates that the “stand your ground” law does not apply equally to Black people.
Members of Wilson’s defense team have pointed out that police included no mention of the self-defense angle in public statements about the case. The police have been accused of giving the white teenagers’ accounts of the incident more credibility than Wilson’s. The driver of the pickup admitted that he and four of the passengers in the vehicle had consumed alcohol earlier. Luke Harry Conley, one of the males in the truck, is also facing an obstruction charge for withholding information from investigators, and encouraging his friends to do the same. A police report shows Conley was spotted “yelling out of a window of the victim vehicle just prior to the shooting.”
“Make no mistake about it,” Johnson said in a Monday morning Zoom meeting. “We believe that if Marc Wilson was a white gentlemen that night, accosted by a truckload of angry, belligerent, possibly drunk black men, and he used a legally possessed firearm to defend himself and his passenger, that he would have been given a medal and not given a prosecution.”
James Woodall, the current NAACP Georgia president, said the case is “shaping up to be a public lynching.” Wilson’s parents have said they hope to bring their son home.
Wilson’s mother who is white, and father, who is Black, spoke at a virtual news conference on Monday, July 6. His father, Pat Wilson, said he raised his son to trust the police, but now believes “that trust has been broken,” after seeing how officials have handled the case. Amanda Wilson said both her son and his girlfriend would have been lynched if he hadn’t used lethal force. “Had the roles been reversed and Marc not reacted the way he did, we’d be mourning two lives instead of one and we may not have ever known what happened that night,” she said during the news conference.
There is a petition at change.org on behalf of Wilson. The petition started two weeks ago by Corey Olliver to the Georgia State House, urging the release of Wilson from jail, has gained nearly 50,000 signatures.