Ex-officer not guilty of manslaughter in Georgia shooting | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Ex-officer not guilty of manslaughter in Georgia shooting

Associated Press
1770043_web1_1770043-b583739563e148c3bdfbd68487e8fe70
Kingsland Police Department via AP
A law enforcement expert says he believes Officer Zechariah Presley was justified in fatally shooting a man whom prosecutors say was unarmed and fleeing.

WOODBINE, Ga. — A former Georgia police officer who fatally shot a fleeing, unarmed black man was acquitted Saturday of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

The jury, however, found Zechariah Presley guilty of violating his oath of office in the 2018 shooting of Tony Green, 33, in coastal Camden County near the Georgia-Florida state line.

Presley was ordered to be jailed pending sentencing Oct. 18. He faces a prison term of one to five years.

Presley sat silently at the defense table. Green’s relatives wiped away tears after the verdict was read.

Pastor Mack De’Von Knight, whose church Green attended, denounced the acquittals outside the courthouse, saying the evidence was “open and shut.”

“He admitted that he killed Tony Green in cold blood,” Knight said. “To me, it’s hunting season for the young black man and we’re being gunned down in the streets and there’s no repercussions, there’s no consequences for these officers.”

Though Presley’s body camera recorded his fatal encounter with Green, darkness and something covering the camera lens obscured the shooting and the moments leading up to it. That left the jury to weigh Presley’s court testimony recalling what had occurred with a sometimes conflicting account by prosecutors and investigators.

Presley said he followed Green’s car on the night of June 20, 2018, because he believed Green was driving with a suspended license. Dash camera video showed Green drive the car off the road, then open the door and run. He briefly returned to the vehicle to grab an unseen object, then fled again.

Presley chased Green on foot down a darkened street. A short struggle followed that’s not visible on the video. The recording picked up the electrified clicking sound from Presley’s Taser, followed by eight gunshots.

Another officer arrives afterward to find Presley lying on the ground. Presley says Green had been on top of him, trying to grab his Taser. Presley then says: “And then I was going for my gun, and he started taking off. And I fired.”

An autopsy found Green was struck by eight bullets — one to his chest, the rest to his back and hips. Green also had small amounts of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and a tranquilizer in his system.

On the witness stand Wednesday, Presley added details he had not mentioned previously. He said he opened fire after Green turned back to face him and extended an arm, saying he feared Green had a gun. Investigators determined the object in his hand was a cellphone.

Presley’s attorneys argued the shooting was justified because Presley believed his life was in danger.

“Tony Green was not shot because of misdemeanor offenses,” defense attorney Adrienne Browning said in her closing argument Thursday. “He was shot because of bad decision after bad decision, until the threat was overwhelming and Zech feared for his life.”

Prosecutors said jurors shouldn’t believe the revised account of the shooting Presley gave in court.

“He made a fatal mistake and it was a mistake that cost a man his life,” prosecutor Rocky Bridges said of Presley in his closing argument. “You don’t have to like Tony Green. … He ran from the police, not a good decision. But he was not armed. He did not turn on officer Presley. He did not deserve to die.”

The shooting of a black man by a white officer sparked protests by Green’s relatives and other black residents of Kingsland. They argued a manslaughter charge wasn’t severe enough for Presley, who was fired after the shooting. The grand jury that indicted Presley rejected charging him with murder.

Categories: News | Top Stories | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.