Five officers with the Savannah Police Department were fired on Monday after a man died while in their custody.
The Associated Press reports that on April 3, 60-year-old William Harvey was found dead in an interview room at police headquarters. Harvey was being questioned in connection with an aggravated assault case. Preliminary findings from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) allege that Harvey hung himself with his shoelaces after being left alone in the interview room.
Francys Johnson, an attorney for Harvey’s family, said that he was told by city officials that the officers didn’t turn on the video surveillance in the room when they left Harvey alone. “They failed to take the most basic step in policing,” Johnson told AP. “That’s beyond the pale. We shouldn’t be left to guess what happened in an interrogation room because it should be recorded.”
It’s just kind of sus to me that whenever someone dies in a police station it’s usually by hanging, and conveniently there’s no footage to show what happened. We just gotta take their word that there wasn’t any impropriety. Now, I’m not accusing anyone of doing anything—I’m simply saying this is a very, very bad look. The first thing that comes to mind with this situation is Sandra Bland, the Black woman who died in a Texas jail six years ago.
A statement from the Savannah Police Department said that two of the officers, Sgt. Michael Kerr and Cpl. Silver Leuschner, were fired for policy violations related to Harvey’s interview, with the other three being fired for sending a widely shared text message mocking Harvey’s death. A man killed himself, on your watch, and you got the audacity to crack jokes about it?
This is why it’s fuck 12 all day, y’all.
Johnson told AP that the family understandably has many questions regarding the circumstances of Harvey’s death, but they’re awaiting the final report from the GBI before they can determine whether they believe he killed himself. “Everything we’ve seen thus far lines up with that,” Johnson told AP, “but we won’t get ahead of the report.”
Johnson added that following the report the family will determine whether to file a criminal or civil suit against the department.