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Tue Jul 6, 2021, 10:59 AM

Why Did the Police Shoot Matthew Zadok Williams? [View all]


On the afternoon of April 13th, around two o’clock, Hahnah Williams, a lawyer in Atlanta, received a call from her twelve-year-old niece, who told her to come to her mother’s house right away. Hahnah could hear her mom, Chris Ann Lewis, crying in the background. The phone rang again a few minutes later, as Hahnah was putting on her shoes; it was an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He said that Hahnah’s younger brother, Matthew Zadok Williams, a self-taught investor in his thirties who lived alone and went by his middle name, had died the day before in “an officer-involved shooting.” “I thought, How?” Hahnah recalled later. “He doesn’t leave the house!” Zadok preferred solitude and rarely went anywhere. When she arrived at her mother’s house, the agent was there. Hahnah asked him where the shooting happened, and he gave her the address. “He lives there!” she exclaimed. “Did they just come and hunt him?” she recalls thinking.

The DeKalb County Police Department had issued a statement about the shooting that morning, though it did not mention Zadok by name. The statement reported that a man “aggressively wielding a knife” had “lunged at officers with the knife causing one of them to discharge their firearm” and then had “fled into a vacant residence.” He had, according to the statement, come back out and lunged at officers with the knife, again “causing an officer to discharge his firearm,” and then gone “back into the residence.”


Late on the afternoon of April 13th, Hahnah and her mother joined other members of the family at the Terraces. Inside Zadok’s home, they saw blood on the floor and walls. They also noticed what looked like marks from a knife on the door handle. The condo attached to Zadok’s was being renovated by its owner, Jeffrey Dotson, who usually rented it out—it was unoccupied, and the family suspected that this was the vacant residence the police had mentioned in their initial statement, which informed early news reports of the incident. Dotson told me that, in early March, Zadok had called him to let him know about a leak in his place that could be damaging Dotson’s side, and offered to pay for any damages. “He was very proactive,” Dotson said. “A good neighbor.”

The family walked around the complex, asking neighbors what they had heard and seen. Among the people they spoke to was Jason Neal, who later told Channel 2 News in Atlanta what he’d told the Williams family, that he’d seen “a young man running from the police” who had “jumped on the rooftop, kicked in a window” and then jumped through it. Other neighbors told the Williams family that they’d seen a man with a bucket, but no knife. Zadok’s sisters had seen him with his bucket before, dealing with some kind of plumbing issue in the crawl space beneath the house. Neighbors also said that a long time passed before anyone helped Zadok. “When we interviewed witnesses,” Hahnah said, “they told us that E.M.S. did not enter the house until over an hour after the shooting.”

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