The Savannah Police Department fired five police officers on Monday after two internal case investigations related to the in-custody death of William Zachery Harvey were closed. However, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigation into Harvey’s death continues and many questions remain unanswered.
Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter provided additional details of the Harvey case and a related investigation in a telephone interview Thursday with the Savannah Morning News.
After:5 Savannah officers sacked, including one on probation after hanging death of man in custody
Deaths in custody
Minter clarified the information regarding Harvey’s arrest and the lack of video from the interrogation room.
Harvey was brought to police headquarters during a brawl-related aggravated assault investigation. Harvey was questioned as someone involved in the fight, Minter said.
Regarding the video, Minter said the audiovisual equipment was not operational because the detective failed to activate the system. Ministry policy is to start recording before the interview begins and recording should continue until the interview is completed.
Initial report:“He was my lifeline”: William Zachery Harvey’s family are heartbroken by death in custody
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According to the SPD and GBI, officers left the room during the interview and returned to find Harvey unconscious with neck injuries from a pair of Harvey’s shoelaces. The officers attempted rescue measures; however, Harvey died of his injuries.
The GBI medical examiner ruled that the preliminary cause and mode of death was suicide by hanging.
Previous reports:UPDATE: William Zachery Harvey’s family “blinded” by GBI’s decision to die as suicide
Previous reports:GBI confirms no video footage exists for William Zachery Harvey’s death in custody case
When asked Thursday if the interview was over when officers left Harvey alone in the room, Minter said, “I understand that was not the case.”
The GBI had previously confirmed that no video footage captured Harvey’s in-custody death, as officers carrying body cameras left the room at the time of the incident.
Two officers – Cpl. Silver Leuschner and Sgt. Michael Kerr – were fired in connection with the investigation into Harvey’s death. Constable Matthew White has been suspended.
Leuschner was fired for violating departmental policies relating to criminal investigations, employee liability, the oath of ethics and office conduct, and video / audio recording equipment.
Kerr was fired for breach of supervisory responsibility.
White was suspended for violating employee accountability and the office’s oath of ethics and conduct policies.
An additional officer, Rodheem Greene, was fired for a previous incident, associated with his involvement in the Harvey investigation.
When asked on Thursday how exactly officers violated policies and procedures, Minter declined to give details as part of it involves the GBI’s ongoing investigation.
After:Who are the 5 Savannah police officers fired following the investigation into the hanging of William Harvey?
Minter said at a press conference on Tuesday that if officers had followed the policies and procedures in place in the SPD, Harvey could still be alive today.
Suspended gif / meme controversy
In the separate but related Closed Internal Affairs case, three other officers, Sgt. Christopher Hewett, Cpl. Erica Tremblay and Agent David Curtis were fired after sharing a meme shedding light on death by hanging in a group chat.
Initial report:Savannah Police Department officers on leave after allegedly sharing noose gif
The screenshot of the conversation posted to the media showed Curtis sending a GIF of a silhouette swinging near a tree noose with the message “Is it too early to send this to greene? “
Tremblay responded with a question mark, then responded to the GIF, “Def too early curtis.”
Curtis replied, “Alright …”
Minter confirmed Thursday that Curtis created and shared the meme. The other two were aware of the meme and what Curtis was doing, Minter said. Distribution of the meme was limited to members of a specific patrol team, according to Minter.
After:Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter says sacked officers did not follow policy
At a press conference on Tuesday, Minter called the officers’ actions “very inappropriate” and “inexcusable” and added that many members of the department told him how “they were embarrassed that something like this had happened. been sent “.
Adam Van Brimmer contributed to the reporting of the story.
Nancy Guan is the general-duty reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.