Kingsland officer shot fleeing black man 'as result of sudden, violent ... passion'

GBI says Zechariah Presley to face judge on manslaughter charge Friday

KINGSLAND, Ga. – A 25-year-old Kingsland police officer who surrendered Wednesday, one week after investigators said he fatally shot a black motorist who ran from him, is expected to face a judge Friday afternoon on charges of voluntary manslaughter and violating his oath of office.

According to the arrest warrant, Zechariah Presley acted "solely as the result of a sudden, violent, and irresistible passion, resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person."

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation statement said Presley, who is white, was following a vehicle that stopped at an intersection June 20 when the driver and passenger ran. Presley pursued the driver, later identified as Anthony "Tony" Green.

Presley caught up with Green, 33, making physical contact, but when Green fled again, "Presley fired multiple shots resulting in the death of Green," the GBI statement said.

Green's family attorney, Reginald Greene, released a statement saying the family is "seeking justice."

Tony Green was gunned down in cold blood by Officer Presley. We are encouraged by his swift arrest, but 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."

Jennifer Benjamin, Green's cousin, told News4Jax on Thursday that she wishes the father of three was still alive. She said she talked with Green shortly before he was shot and killed, never thinking it would be the last time she would hear his voice.

"I saw him that same day, talked to him that same day, and then to hear the next day what happened to him that night, I was, like, 'No. It can't be. Not Tony,'" Benjamin said. "But when I got that news at 6 o'clock that morning, I just couldn't believe it. It's still unbelievable to know that he's gone and he is not coming back."

The GBI reviewed video from Presley's patrol car and video from his body camera, but said efforts were being made to enhance the video for a clear view of the events. The GBI then obtained arrest warrants for Presley, who turned himself in to the Camden County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday. 

Kingsland Police Chief Daryl Griffis recommended Wednesday that Presley be fired, and Kingsland City Manager Lee Spell agreed.

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 "2-3" accidents and had been arrested for "reckless, eluding, speeding," according to his handwritten text.

Presley also racked up nine incidents during in his year with the police department, at one point parking outside the house of a black man who had complained to the chief, prompting the man to say that Presley had him fearing for his life.

According to police records obtained by News4Jax, Presley and Green had previously interacted when he and another officer responded to a March 12 call. The caller accused Green and another woman of trespassing, but no arrest was made. 

I-TEAM: Background of arrested officer

Green's family and attorneys will hold a news conference at noon Friday in Kingsland. News4Jax will cover that event and Presley's 2 p.m. first appearance hearing at the Camden County Courthouse in Woodbine.

As Green's family plans his funeral, which will take place Saturday in Kingsland, the GBI continues to investigating the shooting. 

"It's just really hard to deal with," Benjamin said.

A GBI spokesperson told News4Jax on Thursday that "the autopsy and body camera footage will not be released at this time."

Under Georgia law, if convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Presley faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

About the Authors:

16-year veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.