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Matthew Zadok Williams’ gunshot wounds were survivable if police provided medical attention, doctor says

Crime and public safety Decatur Metro ATL

Matthew Zadok Williams’ gunshot wounds were survivable if police provided medical attention, doctor says

Left to right: Rev. James Woodall, Rep. Renita Shannon, Devin Barrington-Ward, Attorney Mawuli Davis, Attorney Francys Johnson at the press conference on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Screenshot from Instagram Live.

Decatur, GA — On April 20, the Davis-Bozeman Law Firm in Decatur held a press conference to discuss the killing of Matthew Zadok Williams, 35. Williams was shot and killed by DeKalb County Police officers on April 12 in his own home. The press conference was held at the law firm’s Decatur office and was streamed on Instagram Live.

Speakers included Attorney Mawuli Davis, State Representative Renita Shannon, pathologist Dr. Jackson Gates, representatives from the Georgia NAACP, Justice for Georgia, and Matthew Zadok Williams’ mother and five sisters.

Attorney Mawuli Davis of the Davis-Bozeman law firm, who is representing the Williams family, repeated Matthew Zadok Williams’ full name several times consecutively in his introduction. 

“We are grateful that there are still some elected officials who will stand tall with those who oppose excessive force, police brutality, and the continued taking of Black lives with little or no repercussions,” said Davis. 

At the press conference, State Rep. Renita Shannon said, “Matthew Zadok Williams should be alive today, but he’s not. He had a bad mental health day and DeKalb County Police killed him over it. My heart breaks for this family.”

NAACP State Conference president Rev. James “Major” Woodall said, “It is completely unfathomable that Black skin continues to be under attack. Before the police even got there, there was a white woman who was not living at that residence who called the cops on yet another Black man, which ended in his life tragically being taken away.” According to a GBI press release, DeKalb County police officers were responding to a 911 call complaining of a man who was wielding a knife.

The press conference was held at 1 p.m., hours before former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin was declared guilty on all counts of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.

According to The Washington Post, 274 people in the U.S. have been fatally shot by police so far in 2021; 55 of those people were Black.

Johnny Ross and Hannah Joy, representatives from local organization Justice for Georgia, stood behind the microphone holding Justice for Zadok signs.

“Georgia has a horrible police brutality problem,” said Britt Jones-Chukura of Justice for Georgia. “How many more families in Georgia are going to continue to have to meet with people like us, and the NAACP, and other organizations?” 

Jones-Chukura emphasized that “police are supposed to detain, not kill.”

Former Georgia State Senate candidate Devin Barrington-Ward said, “It’s time now not to reform this system but to re-imagine this system. … If we had defunded the police and put money towards mental health services, someone would have called 311 instead and two mental health professionals would have come out to the scene and not two officers with a gun and a badge.”

Dr. Jackson Gates was hired by Williams’ next-of-kin to perform an autopsy independent of the DeKalb County report.

Attorney Davis asked Dr. Gates if this kind of wound would have been survivable if Williams had been provided medical aid. “I do believe it would have been possible,” said Dr. Gates. Dr. Gates cited his prior experience doing autopsies on other victims of police-involved shootings. He described the damage to Williams’ body as “a slow hemorrhage” as opposed to other shootings where the victim bled out more quickly.

“There was a white woman who indicated [to police] that this wasn’t his house or this was a vacant house. It was a deadly error for her to communicate that this was not his home, because the officers approached him as if he was trespassing,” said Davis. 

“The family has said that they express compassion for the officer who was in fear for his life. They said they had never seen [Williams] be violent and that it shocked them as family members, said Davis. “When the officer fired that one shot outside, she was acting based on what she observed in defense of another officer. However, the analysis can’t stop there, and it’s important that the public not stop there either.”

Davis clarified that Matthew Williams was the owner of the home, he had lived there for 15 years, and the house was even paid off.

“Once he gains entry into his own home, they don’t call for mental health experts, they don’t call for negotiators, they don’t call his mother who lives fifteen minutes away … instead, they make a decision, without being a SWAT team, to kick the door and repeatedly kick down the door until it crashes in,” Davis said. 

Davis said that when officers entered, Williams was crouching in fear behind an ottoman. According to Davis, the officers fired a taser and then a gun, then backed away from the porch, which he said was “illogical.”

“This case requires complete and transparent continuing investigation,” said Davis. “The analysis cannot stop at that door.”

One of Williams’ sisters, Dr. Buelah Williams, said, “What’s keeping me up at night is that my brother should be alive, he should be recovering from his wounds at the hospital. I don’t understand why he’s not here.”

Williams’ youngest sister, Zipporah Williams, described her brother as a charming food lover and avid reader. 

“It’s so hard to believe that he’s gone, we try to hold each other up and grieve together, but we have a lot to do to fight for justice for our brother too. Our brother was a beautiful person, he had a heart of gold and did not deserve to die like this, no one does,” she said. 

Williams’ mother, Chrys Ann Lewis, said, “He was just a joy, I had 35 awesome years with him. He is number six, I have six children because it took us so long to have a son.”

Williams’ father passed away in the month of April, and that he wanted “someone to carry on his name.” His mother said his middle name, Zadok (pronounced Zah-DOAK), derived from Hebrew, means righteousness and justice.

“That’s what was taken from us, their bloodline, that name of his father, Matthew Williams,” Lewis said.  

Attorney Hahnah Williams, the second eldest sister, said “Matthew Zadok Williams was the baby brother of five sisters, his feet never touched the ground until he was two years old because we passed us between him. What a life to take. We demand justice.”

“I don’t care if he was 35, he was still a baby brother to me,” said Kaia Williams, 45, the eldest sister. “He would call me every Monday and we would discuss certain things. I had a hard day yesterday because I couldn’t talk to him,” she said, adding Williams was a selfless, non-violent, smart person. 

Attorney Francys Johnson, of the Statesboro office of the Davis-Bozeman Law Firm said, “The narrative that is trying to be set, that he had mental health issues and attacked the police, that police had to fire — and they didn’t want to do so, as a matter of fact, they’ve been careful that you hear these words: ‘We’re Black, and we don’t want to kill you.’”

Body camera footage obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows an officer shoot at Williams when he runs away outside his home. Williams then ran back inside his home. Officers allegedly kicked down Williams’ door and attempted to speak with him.

An officer who was identified as a supervisor asked Williams repeatedly to drop the knife. “Put the knife down, man. We don’t want to hurt you, brother. … 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.” An officer then fired three shots and all three officers backed away from the house.