Family, friends and supporters met outside the office of Dekalb County CEO Michael Thurmond on January 12th to demand justice for Matthew Zadok Williams, who was killed by police inside his home last year.

The group of protesters were prepared with signs and a petition with almost 40,000 signatures demanding the dismissal of the officers that were involved in Williams’s death.

Protestors for the murder of Matthew Zadok Williams. (Photo Credit: Bria Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

When the protesters attempted to deliver the petition to Thurmond, he did not step outside to receive it.

Local organizations and leaders such as Color Of Change, Black Futurists Group, Movement 4Black Lives, DeKalb Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Gerald Griggs (Georgia NAACP), State Rep. Renitta Shannon, Commissioner Ted Terry and the New Georgia Project attended the protest in support of Williams’ family.

The group has called for Sgt. Devon Perry and anyone else responsible for William’s death to be fired immediately to protect other Dekalb County residents from another tragedy.

“If we continue to allow business to be done as usual in DeKalb County, people [will] end up hurt,” Devin Barrington-Ward, founder of Black Futurists Group, said. “They end up killed. Families end up grieving unnecessarily. Can you imagine your mother having to come to the conclusion that her only son is gone, and to add even more insult to injury, gone with our own tax dollars. DeKalb County paid for that gun… Those are our tax dollars that we use to murder another resident. Not build more parks. Not keep young people out of trouble.”

Williams’ mother, Chris Ann, simply wants justice for her son’s death and for no other mother to have to feel her pain.

“Matthew Zadok Williams was my baby, my youngest of six children,” Chris Ann said. “My only son. How could this happen? How could it be that since April 2021, CEO Thurman has, cowardly, done nothing.”

Rep. Shannon believes that justice has yet to be served in this case and that Dekalb County will be safer without the officers involved in this incident on active duty.

“These officers who had such poor judgment to kill a man in his own home who was no threat to anybody are still operating out on the streets,” Shannon said. “Think about that: That means these same officers with the poor judgment they exhibited are still out using that same poor judgment with other DeKalb County residents.”

The family’s lawyer, Mawuli Davis, listed four main issues with how Dekalb County Police responded to the call that would lead to the end of Williams’s life.

The first issue is that SWAT was not called to handle the situation once Williams had barricaded himself in his home.

“The policies and procedures are clear when someone is barricaded in a home, you call SWAT,” Davis said.”The language in the policies and procedures is must, not shall but must, you must call SWAT.”

The second violation is that Williams, who was going through a mental health crisis, was not handled properly. The family believes that a different approach from officers on the scene could have resulted in a different outcome.

The third issue is the use of excessive force. Davis argued that once Williams was in his home behind the front door, there was no need for deadly force because Williams was not a threat to anyone.

The fourth violation was that aid was not rendered to Williams after he was shot. Davis plans to use these four main topics in an eventual civil case against the county.

What happened to Matthew Zadok Williams?

On April 12, 2021 a neighbor called 911 to report a “suspicious man” pacing in the neighborhood. When officers arrived on the scene, an officer indicated he thought Williams lived in the neighborhood and a witness stated he did not.

According to WSB-TV, “A police incident report incorrectly listed the unit next to Williams’ home as the location of response that day, likely the one the women were referring to when talking to law enforcement.”

When the officers approached Williams, he took off running and lunged behind an officer with a knife. It is then that the first shot is fired.

Williams then jumps through a first floor window to enter his home. Officers go back and forth trying to talk to Williams and to get him to go outside of the home.

Police kick the door to try to keep it open after Williams repeatedly closes it. Tasers are deployed and eventually more shots are fired.

For an hour and 25 minutes, officers wait outside the front door for SWAT while Williams dies from his injuries before they arrive.

Bria Suggs became a General Assignment Reporter for The Atlanta Voice in August 2021. In 2019, she earned 2nd place for Best Entertainment Story at GCPA. In SEJC's 2020 Best of the South Awards, she placed...