FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Kingsland Police Department shows Officer Zechariah Presley. A judge denied a former Georgia police officer’s request for immunity from prosecution in the fatal shooting of a fleeing, unarmed man after reviewing body camera video in which the officer states: “He started taking off, so I fired.” Former Kingsland police officer Presley is scheduled to stand trial starting Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Kingsland Police Department via AP, File)
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A judge denied a former Georgia police officer’s request for immunity from prosecution in the fatal shooting of a fleeing, unarmed man after reviewing body camera video in which the officer states: “He started taking off, so I fired.”
Former Kingsland police officer Zechariah Presley is scheduled to stand trial starting Monday on charges of voluntary manslaughter and violating his oath of office. Presley killed 33-year-old Tony Green after a traffic stop and foot chase June 20, 2018, in coastal Camden County near the Georgia-Florida state line.
Presley’s attorneys had asked Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett to grant him immunity, saying the shooting was justified because Presley feared his life was in danger. The judge rejected that argument after viewing footage from Presley’s body and dash cameras in court Tuesday. In the video, Presley says Green tried to grab his stun gun during a struggle.
“While it is clear from the body camera video that Presley was distraught and fearful during and after that incident, it is unrebutted at this stage of the proceedings that Green was ‘taking off’ at the time Presley fired his weapon,” Scarlett wrote in his order Thursday. ”…Moreover, Green had no weapon on him.”
The video shows Presley following Green’s car onto a road, Green getting out of his car and starting to run, and then Green returning to the vehicle to remove some unidentifiable object. Presley then chases him on foot.
The nighttime chase took place on a darkened street, making it hard to see what happened next. But the recording picked up the electrified clicking sound of a stun gun, followed by several gunshots. Presley can be heard telling Green to “stay still,” adding: “I’ve got help coming.”
An officer arrives to find Presley lying on the ground. Presley says his head hurts after he struggled with Green on top of him.
“He was grabbing at my Taser. I kind of tased myself, I think, in the arm maybe,” Presley tells the other officer. “And then I was going for my gun, and he started taking off. And I fired.”
Under Georgia law, voluntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by one to 20 years in prison. Some of Green’s relatives and friends have argued manslaughter is too lenient of a charge. The grand jury that indicted Presley rejected murder charges presented by prosecutors.