ATLANTA (AP) — A white Georgia police officer accused of fatally shooting a black man had only been on the job a year and a half. But during that time, he’d already earned one suspension for using his personal vehicle in a high-speed chase and — after a black resident complained to the police — parked outside his house, causing the resident to say he feared for his life.
Kingsland Police Officer Zechariah Presley surrendered Wednesday after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant for his arrest on the charge of manslaughter. The killing has enraged family and friends of the dead man — Anthony Marcel Green — in the small town of Kingsland near the border with Florida where the shooting occurred.
Green’s family demanded justice Thursday, with one of their lawyers referring to the shooting as one of many “senseless killings of black men by police.”
Presley’s lawyer, Adrienne Browning, said her client is looking forward to his day in court and declined further comment.
The shooting unfolded June 21, when Presley was following a vehicle that stopped at an intersection and the driver and passenger ran, according to a statement from the investigative bureau. Presley pursued the driver, shouting over police radios: “Got one running! Got two running!”
What happened next was recorded on Presley’s body camera but has not been released.
Images from the camera were enhanced and are still being reviewed by the bureau, along with dashcam footage, GBI Special Agent Stacy Carson said. She said for that reason, neither was being made public.
Presley, 26, caught up with Green, 33, making physical contact, but Green again fled, “at which time Presley fired multiple shots resulting in the death of Green,” the bureau statement said.
Green’s family attorney, Reginald Greene, released a statement saying the family is encouraged by Presley’s arrest but still waiting for answers.
“Tony Green was gunned down in cold blood by Officer Presley,” Greene said in a statement. “We intend to remain vigilant until he is brought to justice and the family is able to get answers as to why this happened in the first place. The senseless killings of black men by police must stop.”
Presley’s first appearance in court is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday in Camden County.
Kingsland Police Chief Daryl G. Griffis recommended firing Presley, and Kingsland City Manager Lee Spell agreed, news outlets reported.
The department also released Presley’s personnel file, which shows he was hired last year despite admitting that he had physically fought with his wife, had bought or sold marijuana, repeatedly shouted at people, was involved in at least two crashes and had been arrested for reckless driving and speeding, according to handwritten answers he gave when he applied for a job with the department.
After joining the department, he ran into trouble again.
In the car chase, Presley was suspended for a day without pay and warned about his “poor decision making” after he called in a reckless driver while off-duty near a Dunkin Donuts in January, then sped off in pursuit in his private car at more than 100 mph (160 kph). His sergeant then reached him by phone and made him stop.
As for Green, news outlets reported that he had a traffic ticket in March for a suspended license and a 2016 misdemeanor arrest.
“He always kept a big smile on his face,” said his pastor, The Rev. Mack De’Von Knight of Refreshing Oasis Church. “He found a joke out of everything — he was always making you laugh.”
Green was one of the managers at a fast-food restaurant in Kingsland, Greene said. He had three children who ranged in age from 13 to a young son who was 3 or 4, Knight said.
A funeral service is planned for Saturday at Refreshing Oasis Church, Knight said.
The shooting comes after several high-profile cases of white law officers killing black men in recent years. Just this week in Pennsylvania, a white police officer was charged with criminal homicide eight days after fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager in the back, authorities said.
In Georgia, Presley is being held in the Glynn County Jail rather than the Camden County Jail, where he worked as a guard before joining the police force.
Relatives and lawyers for Green’s family are planning a news conference at noon Friday in Kingsland, a south Georgia town about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Jacksonville, Florida. About 40 sworn officers make up the Kingsland Police Department in the city of about 16,000 residents near the Georgia coast.