DA says use of deadly force was justified in Decatur condominium shooting

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said she will not prosecute a DeKalb County police officer who shot and killed a man inside his Decatur home last year.

Boston shared her decision on June 28 after stating that she had presented her findings to the family of Matthew Zadok Williams during an “hours-long discussion.”

Williams’ story made national headlines, including a profile in The New Yorker magazine. According to Boston, who said she reviewed extensive evidence such a police body camera footage, the April 12, 2021 incident started with a phone call to 911 from a resident of the condominiums located on Terrace Trail in Decatur regarding “a suspicious man with a large blue knife” walking around the property.

According to officials, when officers arrived, they attempted to speak with Williams and asked him repeatedly if he was a resident of the condominiums. Williams did not reply and at one point lunged toward one of the officers with the knife before breaking a window to climb into his home after an officer fired a shot.

“After realizing Williams had barricaded the front door with an ottoman, Sgt. Devon Perry soon arrived with more officers, announced he was a police officer and repeatedly asked Williams to open the door, advising if he didn’t open the door the officers would force entry,” said Boston. “Williams told the officers he was defending his property. Officers were blocked by the barricaded door when trying to make entry. (…) Williams still had the knife in his hand and moved forward as police tried to gain entry. Perry fired three shots. Williams then closed the door. Perry then ordered all officers on scene to back up and hold the perimeter.”

Approximately 40 minutes later, DeKalb County SWAT arrived and found Williams deceased, according to officials.

Williams’ family, including his mother Chris Ann Lewis, have been vocal on social media and through protests expressing their belief that Williams’ case was mishandled. They believe he was going through a mental health crisis, and crisis intervention should have been called in once Williams was inside his home.

“DeKalb County police policies are meaningless without leadership that will not hold rogue cops accountable,” said Lewis in a Facebook post.

Boston said an extensive review of facts, evidence, relative law, policies, and training protocols lead to her decision not to file charges.

“I must review these matters and make only one determination: was any law broken by the action of officers involved?” stated Boston. “We have concluded there is no criminal culpability in this case. The use of force was justified under Georgia law. This case in now closed and will not be presented to a grand jury for prosecution consideration. Our charging determination is guided by the criminal statutes regarding use of deadly force and justification. Perry indicated that he feared Williams was attempting to stab him and his fellow officers with the weapon Williams had been repeatedly ordered to put down. His fear of bodily harm was reasonable under the standard of law. While determining that this was not criminal, it is no less a tragedy because of the loss of life.”

For more information, visit www.dekalbda.org.


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