KINGSLAND — City officials have been silent about the June 20 shooting death of an unarmed African-American man by a Kingsland Police officer, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
An overflow crowd packed Kingsland City Hall to ask city officials Monday night why they haven’t made any public statements about the incident since Tony Marcel Green’s death.
Officer Zechariah Presley, 26, was charged with voluntary manslaughter and violation of his oath of office after Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials reviewed footage taken from his body camera. Green was shot eight times, according to reports.
Bond was denied last week and Presley remains jailed. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for July 17 at the Camden County Courthouse in Woodbine.
The Rev. Mack De’Von Knight, pastor of Refreshing Oasis Church, addressed Kingsland City Council members Monday on behalf of Green’s family and supporters.
“Someone should have said something by now,” Knight said. “The city has returned to business as usual as if nothing was done. This is an alarming and appalling situation.”
Knight questioned why nobody from the city attended Green’s funeral and asked why the city hired Presley, who he said had a questionable history as a law enforcement officer.
“There were lots of flags,” he said. “He should have never been hired. He should have never been given a badge.”
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Presley was on duty June 20 and was following a vehicle around 10:20 p.m. that stopped at the intersection of Lily and North East streets in Kingsland. Green, who was the driver, and the passenger got out of the vehicle and fled on foot.
According to the report, Presley pursued Green and after making contact with him, a brief altercation occurred. The officer fired multiple shots, resulting in Green’s death, according to the report.
Mayor Ken Smith said city officials were told not to say anything about the incident, which is still under investigation.
“They do have my deepest condolences,” Smith said of Green’s family. “I’m not aware of what’s going on. I cannot elaborate on anything else other than to say I’m sorry.”
Knight disagreed and questioned how the police department decided to hire Presley.
Smith interrupted Knight and asked him not to make inflammatory statements.
“I can’t say what the hiring practice is,” he said.
Knight, however, said he was simply trying to determine how Presley was hired and why the city did nothing after complaints were filed against the officer.
“It’s not inflammatory,” he said. “It’s the truth. I’m being serious, as a pastor in this county.”
Residents want to ensure the police department does a better job screening applicants and is more selective in its hiring practices, Knight said.
“I’m trying to keep peace in the community,” he said. “It could have been my child.”
After the audience burst into applause, Smith asked the audience to remain civil.
“We’re not kicking this under the rug,” he said. “I’m not an investigator. None of us are.”
Several people in the audience said they met with Smith and Police Chief Darryl Griffis in the past to complain about Presley, yet he remained on the job.
One man said he met with Smith for two hours to complain about Presley prior to the shooting death.
“You failed to realize I was telling the truth,” he said.
Marion Benefield, cousin of the victim, said she was still struggling with the shock of the shooting.
“I can’t express my feelings,” she said. “What education are you giving to officers to deal with people, not just people of color? What type of training are you giving to officers who just don’t understand us?”
Griffis said his officers get training, including for social awareness.
After the public comment period ended, the crowd left the meeting room, muttering that city officials were “a bunch of clowns.”
They stood on the sidewalk outside City Hall. Many carried signs such as “No doubt, 8 bullets is murder” and chanted “No justice, no peace.”
Knight said a rally is scheduled 1:30 p.m. Friday at Veteran’s Park, located across from the Kingsland Police Department.