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‘He Could Be In There Bleeding Out’: Bodycam Footage Captures Atlanta-area Officers Discuss Providing Aid to Black Man They’d Just Shot In His Home But Chose Not To

Body camera footage from an April encounter between police in an Atlanta suburb and a 35-year-old Black man shows that officers warned each other about the need to provide aid to the man they’d just shot inside his own home but failed to do so for over an hour.

Matthew Zadok Williams died at the end of the April 12 encounter with police inside his condo in DeKalb County, Georgia, after a neighbor who had mistaken him for a prowler called 911. The caller said that a “seemingly homeless” man was outside with a knife.

Matthew Williams and his mother. (Photo: Williams family photo)

A woman told police she saw Williams lurking outside her home with a knife and Williams had stepped toward her with the weapon when she startled him.

“I guess I startled him, and he pulled a knife out, and he tried to like cover it, like, because I guess, I don’t know — because I’m a small woman, and he didn’t find me a threat or something,” she said. “But he pulled a knife out, and there’s just like a man outside my house, and I need somebody to take him away.”

At the scene, an officer told the woman he thought Williams lives in the home, but she said no one lived there. Williams’ family would later confirm that not only did he live in the home but he may have locked himself out.

Previously released footage of the shooting showed officers outside of Williams’ home. The officers instructed Williams repeatedly to drop the knife in his hand, but he failed to comply. When Williams ran close to another officer with the knife, the first shot was fired and Williams fell down but was able to run back inside his home. According to Williams’ family, he was suffering a mental health crisis at the time.

Officers told Williams they did not want to kill him as they stood outside after kicking the door to his house down as Williams hid inside behind an ottoman. During this time, Williams told officers they had broken into his house without a warrant and slammed the door closed again multiple times.

After six minutes of negotiations to get Williams to drop the knife, police shot him through the doorway of his home, after he lunged toward them with a knife, according to initial police accounts.

No one entered the home until SWAT arrived more than an hour later.

But in new video released on Wednesday, May 26, the shooting officer, Sgt. Perry, told his supervisor Williams had not lunged toward him prior to the shooting, 11 Alive reported.

“He lunged at you or what?” a supervisor asked.

“No, he, he was in at the door,” Perry replied. “I gave him the demand to put the knife down. He came at the door with a knife. I was like he came to the doorway. That’s what it felt like to me.”

The footage also showed that another officer, Sgt. Swain, warned via phone that the officers on the scene that they had to provide aid to Williams.

In response, an officer identified as Lt. James said they had “backed out” after the shooting.

“But he could be in there bleeding out,” Swain replied.

“I need you to think about that, though,” Swain continued, adding that it could be an hour before he arrived. “If ol’ boy in there bleeding out. Because if you think he bleeding out, it’s on us if we shot him to still provide aid. I’ll just throw that out there.”

Officers did not provide aid to Williams, citing the lack of shields necessary to clear the building. Police are not required to have shields at every shift, a spokesperson for the county said. SWAT would bring the shields when they arrived. Atlanta Black Star reached out to Dekalb County Police for clarity on said policy with no response.

An unidentified officer can be heard giving instructions on the scene to make sure shifts are always equipped with shields in the future as he consoled Perry, who was visibly upset about what had transpired.

Fire personnel wanted to provide aid to Williams but were not allowed to because the building hadn’t been cleared.

“DCFR EMTs were on the scene and inquired about going in to render aid, but per policy, could not render aid until the scene was deemed safe by the police department,” a statement from the fire department said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident as an internal review is also being conducted. At least one officer is on paid administrative leave pending the investigations.

Williams’ family believes the use of force wasn’t justified and that a crisis negotiator should have been called to de-escalate the situation. They viewed body camera footage of the shooting in April.

The family met with DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston last week, who will determine if any officers involved in Williams’ death will face charges.

Mawuli Davis, an attorney for the family, said the footage raises more questions.

”Why was the decision made to knock down the door and shoot him?” he asked. “There’s no reason to create this danger for [Williams] or the officers.”

A preliminary review conducted by a pathologist hired by the family showed that Williams might have survived had he received aid faster. Boston has pledged to have a decision on possible charges in six months.

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