WOODBINE, GA. (AP) — A former Georgia police officer who fatally shot a fleeing, unarmed black man was acquitted Saturday of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
The jury, however, found Zechariah Presley guilty of violating his oath of office in the 2018 shooting of Tony Green, 33, in coastal Camden County near the Georgia-Florida state line.
Presley was ordered to be jailed pending sentencing Oct. 18. He faces a prison term of one to five years.
Presley sat silently at the defense table. Green’s relatives wiped away tears after the verdict was read.
Pastor Mack De’Von Knight, whose church Green attended, denounced the acquittals outside the courthouse, saying the evidence was “open and shut.”
“He admitted that he killed Tony Green in cold blood,” Knight said. “To me, it’s hunting season for the young black man and we’re being gunned down in the streets and there’s no repercussions, there’s no consequences for these officers.”
Though Presley’s body camera recorded his fatal encounter with Green, darkness and something covering the camera lens obscured the shooting and the moments leading up to it. That left the jury to weigh Presley’s court testimony recalling what had occurred with a sometimes conflicting account by prosecutors and investigators.
Presley said he followed Green’s car on the night of June 20, 2018, because he believed Green was driving with a suspended license. Dash camera video showed Green drive the car off the road, then open the door and run. He briefly returned to the vehicle to grab an unseen object, then fled again.
Presley chased Green on foot down a darkened street. A short struggle followed that’s not visible on the video. The recording picked up the electrified clicking sound from Presley’s Taser, followed by eight gunshots.
Another officer arrives afterward to find Presley lying on the ground. Presley says Green had been on top of him, trying to grab his Taser. Presley then says: “And then I was going for my gun, and he started taking off. And I fired.”
An autopsy found Green was struck by eight bullets — one to his chest, the rest to his back and hips. Green also had small amounts of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and a tranquilizer in his system.
On the witness stand Wednesday, Presley added details he had not mentioned previously. He said he opened fire after Green turned back to face him and extended an arm, saying he feared Green had a gun. Investigators determined the object in his hand was a cellphone.
Presley’s attorneys argued the shooting was justified because Presley believed his life was in danger.
“Tony Green was not shot because of misdemeanor offenses,” defense attorney Adrienne Browning said in her closing argument Thursday. “He was shot because of bad decision after bad decision, until the threat was overwhelming and Zech feared for his life.”
Prosecutors said jurors shouldn’t believe the revised account of the shooting Presley gave in court.
“He made a fatal mistake and it was a mistake that cost a man his life,” prosecutor Rocky Bridges said of Presley in his closing argument. “You don’t have to like Tony Green. … He ran from the police, not a good decision. But he was not armed. He did not turn on officer Presley. He did not deserve to die.”
The shooting of a black man by a white officer sparked protests by Green’s relatives and other black residents of Kingsland. They argued a manslaughter charge wasn’t severe enough for Presley, who was fired after the shooting. The grand jury that indicted Presley rejected charging him with murder.
Texas officer pulled out woman’s tampon on side of road, settlement expected
SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio is scheduled to vote Thursday on a possible $205,000 settlement for a woman who claims a San Antonio Police officer pulled out her tampon and searched her vaginal cavity on a public street in August 2016.
Natalie D. Simms filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Antonio after she was approached by police while sitting on the side of a public street, talking on the phone and waiting for her boyfriend.
Simms had driven her car to the area and consented to a vehicle search by police, according to the lawsuit.
Documents show that despite not finding anything illegal during the search of the vehicle, a female officer was called to the scene to search Simms’ body.
Detective Mara Wilson, who is now retired, arrived on scene and conducted the search on Simms in front of several male officers. The search was also partially recorded by a dash camera on Wilson’s police vehicle.
The lawsuit details the conversation between Simms and Wilson during the search and indicates Simms did not consent to a vaginal search.
Wilson pulled Natalie’s pants and underwear down in public and used her flashlight to search the area, in addition to pulling a string attached to a tampon out of Simms vagina, according to the lawsuit.
The conversation between Simms and Wilson, taken directly from the lawsuit, reads:
WILSON: Uh-huh. Are you wearing a tampon, too?
WILSON: Okay. I just want to make sure that’s what it is. Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: Come on. Yes.
WILSON: Huh? Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?
WILSON: I don’t know. It looked like it had stuff in there.
SIMMS: There ain’t nothing in there.
Wilson also commented on the amount of pubic hair Simms had and continued to tell Simms they could not go to the police station to finish conducting the search, despite Simms’ persistence, the lawsuit states.
Simms was allowed to drive away following the search when officers didn’t find anything illegal. She filed the lawsuit in March 2018.
If approved during Thursday’s city council meeting, the settlement money would be paid from the city’s self-insurance liability fund.
Mother says 12-Year-Old son Suspended From Worcester Middle School for Hugging Gym Teacher
A 12-year-old student in Worcester, Massachusetts, has been suspended for hugging a gym teacher.
The foster mother of the Forest Grove Middle School student is asking for change after the boy was suspended for 10 days and given a record of physical assault of a teacher.
“I was told he had put his hands on a teacher,” said Julie Orozco. “I was shocked and asked for details on what happened, and then I was told that he hugged his gym teacher.”
“At the end of the day, I just hugged her, nothing really happened,” the seventh-grader said.
NBC10 Boston is not identifying the 12-year-old boy, but Orozco says he fully admits he was fooling around with friends in gym class when the teacher told him to sit out.
“And then I went over just like, and I gave her a hug and said, ‘Please, I don’t want to sit out’ because I like the game,” he said.
After sitting out for five minutes, the teacher allowed him to play.
“I don’t expect the teacher to have to be OK with being touched or being hugged, but I do expect as an educator that she educate what the boundaries are in her classroom,” Orozco said.
She says after several phone calls, emails and an eventual hearing, she got his school record reduced to “disruption of school” and his suspension reduced to four days. But she says there’s nothing in the school handbook about hugs and she doesn’t want this incident to be held against him in the future.
“If you can admit to me that you didn’t have a mechanism or a process, or any way of informing students what your expectations were, but then in the same breath you say to me, ‘He’s 12, he should know hugs are not OK,’ it’s confounding,” Orozco said.
Reached by phone, the school district’s safety director said the district has no comment on the matter.
Orozco has been invited by the school committee to speak at their meeting Thursday about what her son is going through.
Texas police officer facing DWI charges after being found passed out at drive-thru
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi Police Department officer is facing DWI charges after being found passed out at a drive-thru this weekend.
Donnie Mersing, Jr., 51, was arrested at 3:08 a.m Saturday. According to court documents, officers were dispatched to the Whataburger on the 4000 block of IH-69. An off-duty officer said he found Mersing sitting in the driver seat of his truck, asleep in the drive-thru.
That off-duty officer said Whataburger staff told him Mersing had ordered and was passed out between the two drive-thru windows. The off-duty officer walked outside and started hitting the the vehicle window to wake up Mersing.
According to the report, “it took him awhile to wake up but when he did he found that Mersing seemed out of it.”
The off-duty officer had Mersing pull into a parking stall in order to clear the line of vehicles waiting behind him.
Once Mersing pulled into a parking spot, he handed the officer his driver’s license and his Corpus Christi Police Department’s identification card.
When an officer with the Corpus Christi Police Department arrived, she found that Mersing had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
According to the report, he “had an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting for his person.”
Mersing told the officer he had been up since 5:30 a.m. He was tired and fell asleep. Mersing said he just stopped at Whataburger to get a breakfast burger and was heading back home.
According to the report, Mersing told the officer he was coming from his home. He also said he had a six-pack of Bud Light around noon and also had a beer with dinner.
Mersing was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was taken to the City Detention Center where he refused to provide a breath specimen.
A judge set Mersing’s bond at $2,500. He bonded out of the Nueces County Jail later that day.
There’s no word yet on Mersing’s status with the Corpus Christi Police Department.