Kingsland officer charged with manslaughter in man's shooting death

GBI says Zechariah Presley turned himself in Wednesday

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Erik Avanier - Reporter, Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter

KINGSLAND, Ga. - The Kingsland police officer who investigators said shot and killed a man one week ago turned himself in to the Camden County Sheriff's Office Wednesday on charges of voluntary manslaughter and violation of oath of office, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The Kingsland police chief recommended that Officer Zechariah Presley be fired, effective Wednesday. The city manager accepted that recommendation. 

On June 20, according to the GBI, Anthony "Tony" Green ran from a vehicle and Presley pursued, eventually making physical contact. When Green fled again, the GBI said, Presley fired multiple shots, hitting Green.

Presley, who had been on the force for just over a year, was placed on administrative leave by the Kingsland Police Department after Green, 33, was killed. 

According to police records obtained by News4Jax, Presley and Green had previously interacted.

An incident report from March 12 shows a woman called police, and Presley and another officer responded to the call. The caller accused Green and another woman of trespassing, but no arrest was made. 

I-TEAM: Background of arrested officer

About three months later, according to the GBI, Green was driving with an unidentified passenger about 10:42 p.m. June 20 when Presley followed the vehicle. Green stopped the vehicle at the intersection of Lily and North East streets, and he and the passenger ran off, authorities said.

According to the GBI, when Presley caught up with Green about two blocks away, "a brief altercation" ended with the officer firing multiple shots that killed Green.

Becci Shannon said she heard gunshots the night Green was fatally shot just feet from her family's house.

“We heard eight quick pops," Shannon recounted Wednesday. "We saw the ambulance and medics come on the scene and start doing CPR. It was very unreal.”

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.

"He took a life, so he should get life, too," Juanita Knight, Green's aunt, told News4Jax by phone Wednesday. 

While a memorial site, which marks the spot where the father of three was killed, has brought people together, some residents described a growing divide in the community. 

“I would say a divide has taken place (between) blacks and whites," said a woman who did not want to be identified. "I pray that bridge can be mended as justice is served.”

Shannon said the entire Kingsland community is hurting over the shooting, despite the arrest of the officer.

“I don’t think it’s a healing time yet because I don’t think people have the hope that there’s a solution to keep this type of thing from happening again," she said. "Some are outraged and some are just blowing it off, and I don’t understand why."

Dan Norris, Green's friend, said in the end, not everyone is going to agree on how the investigation plays out. 

"There's going to be some who think justice is being done right now, those who think there's not enough justice being done, and those who think things should have happened the way they happened," Norris said.

As of Wednesday, the investigation was still active and ongoing, according to the GBI.

Records: Officer had 9 incidents documents in personnel file 

Presley had nine incidents, including several instances of Tasering, during his 13 months on the force prior the fatal shooting, according to documents in his personnel file, which News4Jax obtained Monday from the Police Department through an open records request.

The GBI has yet to release Green's autopsy report, but attorney John Phillips, who is not affiliated with the case, said Wednesday that the autopsy and the body camera footage must have painted a clear picture for the GBI to obtain warrants for Presley's arrest.

"This isn't a video game," Phillips said. "You can't shoot a young man in the back just because he's not listening to you."

According to Phillips, that evidence must have shown Green was either shot in the back, or far enough way he couldn't have been a threat to Presley during the traffic stop that turned deadly.

Phillips, who is licensed to practice law in Georgia and Florida, said Presley's troubles could still get worse under Georgia law.

"They can still impanel a grand jury to charge for murder," he said. 

Among the documents included in Presley’s personnel file was his application. In the application, he was found to have 10 flags that warranted further inquiring, including domestic violence, marijuana use and repeatedly shouting at people. The Police Department still hired Presley in June 2017.

Phillips said Kingsland Police Department could be sued by Green's family.

"Anytime you have a small police department and a member of that department has been arrested, you're going to have a ripple effect across town," he said. "This also involved a white officer and a black member of society, and you could potentially have ripple effect of, not revolt, but friction."

If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Presley faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

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