SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Five members of the Savannah Police Department (SPD) have been fired and another suspended following the in-custody death of William Harvey.
Harvey was found unresponsive in an interrogation room at Savannah police headquarters on April 3, where officials say he was being questioned in an aggravated assault investigation.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), officers stepped out of the interview room and returned to find Harvey unconscious.
Life-saving measures attempted by SPD were unsuccessful, the GBI said. Investigators determined he died of suicide by hanging.
Harvey’s family demanded answers in his death, including the release of surveillance video from inside the interrogation room. But attorneys representing the family later said officers neglected to turn the cameras on while Harvey was present.
According to Savannah Police, all four officers connected to the incident were placed on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation.
The department in late April launched a second internal investigation into a group chat among officers who mocked Harvey’s death in a group text message. Two supervisors and one officer were placed on administrative leave.
At the conclusion of the in-custody death investigation, SPD says Cpl. Silver Leuschner was fired for violating criminal investigation policy, employee responsibility, oath of office ethics and conduct, and video/audio recording equipment.
A disciplinary review board also found Sgt. Michael Kerr in violation of supervisory responsibility, resulting in his termination.
Officer Matthew White was suspended after he was sustained on a violation of office ethics and conduct by the board.
A fourth SPD member involved, Officer Rodheem Greene, was fired in connection to a previous investigation — not Harvey’s in-custody death.
The department’s investigation into the group message resulted in the firing of three officers: Sgt. Christopher Hewett, for violating supervisory responsibility; Cpl. Erica Tremblay for violations of supervisory responsibility, insubordination, and office of professional standards; and Officer David Curtis over conduct unbecoming of an officer, insubordination, and for violations of treatment of others, truthfulness/honesty, and office of professional standards.
In the months following Harvey’s death, his family members have said the police department hasn’t been forthcoming with information. Attorneys say family members believe Harvey was not suicidal and would not have harmed himself.
But Monday, after meeting with Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Chief Roy Minter, their attorney said they’re a step closer to justice for Harvey.
“Today, as the city of Savannah tries to right this wrong, we acknowledge that they’ve done an important thing by first acknowledging their mistakes and doing something about it,” said Attorney Francys Johnson. “If they continue to do this, this family will sooner rather than later have the justice that they deserve.”