Sharpton slams shooting

Morris News Service
The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at Second Saint John Missionary Baptist Church on behalf of the family of David Willis.

SAVANNAH, Ga. - The Rev. Al Sharpton called the Aug. 18 police shooting of a Savannah man "very suspect" moments before addressing an overflow crowd this week at a Savannah church.

"I'm here because I feel the shooting and killing of this young man is very suspect and warrants some very serious attention," the Rev. Sharpton said Thursday night.

"The fact that this man's child is in the car, he was unarmed and you can even suggest in the presence of his baby he was doing something illegal."

The nationally known civil rights activist preached to more than 300 people crowded inside Second Saint John Missionary Baptist Church in west Savannah for about 30 minutes.

The Rev. Sharpton came to Savannah after speaking to Cynthia Willis, the mother of David Willis, who was shot and killed by a Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police officer during the Aug. 18 traffic stop. Mr. Willis' 5-month-old daughter and pregnant girlfriend were in the back seat. Both were unharmed.

"No man has the right whether he has a badge or not to be the judge, jury and executioner," the Rev. Sharpton said.

"Police are to uphold the law, not take the law in their own hands," he said.

Police are continuing to investigate the shooting, but preliminary results show Officer Kevin McKoon's actions were lawful: Mr. Willis was trying to run over the officer with his car, police said.

The Rev. Sharpton's preliminary review - which points to a 23-year-old father with no gun and no drugs - shows a different picture.

The Rev. Sharpton would not say whether the situation would have been different if a black officer had shot Mr. Willis.

"It seems they never make this mistake in white neighborhoods," he said.

"I've heard this story too often. I've heard it too many places," the Rev. Sharpton told the crowd. "Sometimes police get scared and make mistakes. Well, why do they only make mistakes on the black side of town?"

Records show Savannah policemen this year have fatally shot two black men, wounded two black men and wounded a white man.

The Rev. Sharpton - a onetime presidential candidate - said he took particular interest in Savannah after the Troy Anthony Davis case.

Mr. Davis is on death row for killing a Savannah police officer, but his execution has been stayed by the Georgia Supreme Court pending a hearing on his discretionary appeal.

The Rev. Sharpton's comments were followed by a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd, which included people of all ages.

Reach Megan Matteucciat at megan.metteucci@morris.com.