Lawsuit alleges ADA violations in Matthew Williams’ death
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Friday, the family of Matthew “Zadok” Williams and the Davis Bozeman Johnson filed a civil lawsuit against Dekalb County.
“It has to stop. It’s time for the system to make that change. It’s time. No one else,” said Chris Ann Lewis, mother of Zadok Williams.
The lawsuit alleges DeKalb County police violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“DeKalb County has known for years that it is putting officers and citizens at risk by failing to provide proper training and support for custodial arrests of persons in mental crisis. This lawsuit will hold the County responsible for its obligations, and hopefully make change,” said Leighton Moore, with the Moore Law Firm, in a press release.
Williams died April 12, 2021 after being shot by a DeKalb County police officer. His family said that Williams was experiencing a mental health episode at the time.
Williams had previously contacted DeKalb police during a separate prior crisis and requested an ambulance. Williams’ family and their attorneys say that the ambulance never arrived.
“But he called for help. On March 16, think about it, three weeks before this happened on April 12, said Mawuli Mel Davis, attorney with Davis Bozeman Law Firm.
In June 2022, the Dekalb County District Attorney declined to press charges against the officers.
“We have concluded that there is no criminal culpability in connection with this case. The use of force was justified under Georgia law,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.
On Apr. 12, the family says DeKalb officers surrounded Williams’ home, broke down his door, shot him and left him without medical aid for 90 minutes. The family says the ADA and DeKalb County policy required the arrival of a SWAT team and trained negotiator. They also say DeKalb failed to provide officers with “adequate support” to handle the situation.
“In this country there is no reason for anyone to die because they had a mental health crisis. But it happened to my little brother in DeKalb and that has to change,” said Zeporah Williams, the sister of Zadok Williams.
Police claimed that Williams advanced on them and one of the officers shot at him on a trail in DeKalb County. Williams then reportedly barricaded himself inside his home. Police officers on the scene attempted to kick in the door several times.
At some point, Williams opened the door again. At this time, police claimed he lunged at them and one of the officers fired 3 shots.
The lawsuit is being filed under Section 1983. Section 1983 allows individuals to sue state governments for civil rights violations by state employees acting “under color of state law.”
Atlanta News First reached out to DeKalb County and the DeKalb County Police Department for comment on this lawsuit and the County’s police on crisis intervention training - but did not hear back from either.
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