5 Georgia officers fired after man hangs himself in police custody

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It was announced on Monday the Savannah Police Department has let go of five officers after a man in their custody was found hanging.

In addition to the five officers being terminated, one was suspended. William Zachery Harvey, 60, was taken into police custody on April 2 and was in the interview room alone when his hanging body was discovered, per USA Today.

Harvey had been taken into custody for an aggravated assault investigation. The family attorney, Mawuli Mel Davis, said the details of the case are slim but that the assault potentially took place at a gas station in Savannah.

His family is still looking for answers as to how he ended up deceased.

“It’s just been hard finding out what happened and how it happened,” said family member Michael Harvey. “We had so many questions and we’ve got some answers. But we’re not going to stop until we get all our questions answered.”

He added: “We just want to know the truth. We just want to know why this happened.”

According to a press release from the Savannah police department: “Upon discovery of Harvey, officers attempted life-saving measures; however, officers were unable to revive him. All officers connected to the incident were placed on administrative leave. The GBI later ruled the death a suicide.”

The press release added, “In late April, the Professional Standards Unit began a second investigation stemming from a group chat message sent by one officer to a group of other officers. The message referred to the in-custody death investigation and had an inappropriate meme/GIF attached. Two supervisors and one officer were placed on administrative leave during the investigation.”

Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department Train For G-8
SAVANNAH, GA – MAY 20: Members of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department walk on the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge during G-8 crowd control training May 20, 2004 in Savannah, Georgia. The upcoming international G-8 Summit at Sea Island, Georgia is scheduled to take place June 8-10. The city of Savannah is preparing for the anticipated protestors for the summit. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

The police department fired Cpl. Silver Leuschner and Sgt. Michael Kerr as part of the investigation into Harvey’s death. Sgt. Christopher Hewett, Cpl. Erica Tremblay, and Officer David Curtis, were let go after sharing a meme of the hanging in a group chat.

“All the terminated officers from both cases, except for Curtis, appealed the terminations to the chief and city manager. All the terminations were upheld,” read the release.

“I promised the family that we would thoroughly investigate it internally and determine whether rules were broken or not followed and that we would have accountability,” said Mayor Van Johnson during a press conference on Monday.

“Although I don’t have any role in the decision-making process I believe from my briefing that their investigation was thorough.”

Attorney Francys Johnson also spoke at the conference, saying, “This is a tough day. It’s a tough day for the city of Savannah for those who look to the Savannah Police Department to serve and protect, and it’s a tough day for the Harvey family.”

Davis adds the case has not yet been turned over to the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office and that a civil case may come next.

“That’s a very critical next step because it is in that report and investigation that we will know whether anyone will be held criminally liable,” said Davis.

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