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Ex-officer on trial in death after traffic stop takes stand

Tony Green killed by then-Officer Zechariah Presley on June 20, 2018

Tony Green killed by then-Officer Zechariah Presley in June 20, 2018.
Tony Green killed by then-Officer Zechariah Presley in June 20, 2018.

WOODBINE, Ga. – After the prosecution rested its case in the voluntary manslaughter trial of former Kingsland Police Officer Zechariah Presley on Wednesday morning, the defendant took the stand.

Presley is accused of shooting Tony Green to death after a traffic stop on June 20, 2018. He was fired and then indicted after evidence showed Green was unarmed.

"It is my opinion that Anthony Green died of multiple gunshot wounds. The manner of death is homicide," Dr. Edmund Donoghue, who performed the autopsy, testified Tuesday.

Body camera video of Presley's pursuit of Green was played by prosecutors again Wednesday. The video is too dark to make out much, but gunshots are clearly heard.

The lead investigator testified that Green was caught by police after he tried to climb a fence to get away during a previous undercover drug investigation.

On the stand, Presley said he first encountered Green at a Kingsland hotel on a trespassing call in March 2018. Presley said Green told him and a second officer that he was waiting for a ride from a family member because his driver’s license was suspended. Presley said there was no confrontation.

During cross-examination Wednesday afternoon, Presley said he saw Green at that same hotel that night in June, made eye contact with him before Green got into a car. Remembering that Green had said his license was suspended, Presley followed him and clocked it going 53 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Presley said the car crashed and Green and a passenger got out and ran. Green briefly returned to the car and grabbed something before running away.

Presley said called his dispatcher and began a foot pursuit. Presley's Taser gun malfunctioned, but the two men ended up on the ground with Green on top of Presley.

Presley testified that when he pulled his gun out, Green started running again. Presley said when he began firing, Green turned back toward him with something in his hand.

"I could see his face, the front of his body and I could see something extended toward me," Presley said. "That's when I fired my duty weapon."

Green was hit by eight shots in 2.5 seconds. One bullet hit Green in the chest, but several others hit him from behind.

The object in Green's hand turned out to be a cellphone.

Under cross-examination, Presley admitted never telling officers investigating the police-involved shooting that he thought Green had a gun.

A jury of eight men and six women is hearing the case, with will resume with more defense witnesses on Thurday.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett denied Presley's motion asking for immunity. The ruling came two days after the defense played Presley’s dashcam and body camera footage from the 2018 shooting in court.

Despite it being dark outside, the video clearly shows Presley chasing Green on foot, and Presley can be heard warning Green that he is deploying a Taser.

Green, who had entrance and exit wounds on both sides of his body, died of his injuries. No weapon was found on him. Officers answering Presley’s calls for backup found Presley had no visible injuries. 

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Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.

Created WJXT.com in 1995 and managed The Local Station's website ever since.