Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke will file no charges against the Macon police officer who shot and killed 49-year-old Sammie Davis Jr. on the afternoon of December 21.
Facts that Cooke revealed at a news conference Tuesday cast a different light on information that has stoked outrage and racial tension in Macon for months.
Until now, just about all the public knew was that Clayton Sutton—a white police officer with a less-than-spotless record—shot the unarmed, black Davis three times in the chest in front of a busy Kroger grocery store on Pio Nono Avenue.
Police initially said the officer was there serving a warrant, but then retracted that assertion without explanation. Protesters and some city councilors have been demanding more information for months.
It turns out that Sutton was responding to a 911 call from a customer who’d been frightened by Davis, Cooke said, summarizing long-awaited findings from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
"Officer Sutton, who was on duty, responded to a 911 call from a customer who had just left Kroger," Cooke read from prepared remarks. "This customer was concerned for the safety of others because of the behavior of Mr. Davis toward her."
The GBI report cites extensive evidence, Cooke said, that Davis was schizophrenic.
Upon Sutton's arrival on the scene, confrontation with Davis ensued.
"Officer Sutton reasonably feared for his life," Cooke said. "He shot a 6-foot-2 365-pound mentally ill man whom he believed was slicing open his neck."
Investigators determined that cuts on Sutton's neck were made by Davis' fingernails, Cooke said.
As to the matter of the warrant that wasn’t, Cooke said officer Sutton simply confused Davis with an earlier case involving a man with a similar name.
In recent weeks, Macon's police chief had openly fretted about the possibility of civil unrest should Sutton be exonerated. But more than an hour after Cooke's announcement, only stalwart protester Anthony Harris waved a sign across from City Hall.
"I did think once I said I was going to be out here maybe someone would show up, but I’m not worried about it," Harris said. "I'm going to be out here, regardless if it's me or if it's 50.”
GPB has submitted an open records request for the GBI report itself, which includes surveillance video. Cooke anticipates his staff will be able to fulfill the requests "within the next week."