SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s a case involving robberies and guns, gang members, apparent lies and one Savannah Police officer who may be connected to all of it, Adrian Gates.
News 3 obtained document after document of an internal affairs investigation which resulted in a recommendation to fire Gates — one that Chief Roy Minter didn’t follow.
Gates was a member of the Savannah Police Department’s gang unit for just a few months last August when he caught the attention of internal affairs.
The report News 3 received is heavily redacted because there is still an active investigation into several people Gates has been connected to.
Still, what’s not blacked out paints a suspicious picture.
For example, Gates was documented going to a suspected gang house eight different times but admitted to supervisors he never shared information from any of those visits with any of his superiors.
Gates’ supervisor writes in the report, he had “concerns about Officer Gates and the failure to be where he was instructed to be.”
Those oncerns are amplified by taped phone conversations from the jail in which several inmates mentioned Gates by name.
Documents show statements like “Man I been calling Gates name brah” and “Y’all been hollering at Gates?” and “Keep Hollering at Gates.”
There were also questionable text messages between Gates and possible gang suspects and families that add to the suspicion.
The report includes a statement from someone in the neighborhood of the suspected gang house about a “crooked police officer” who “may be sharing” information with the gang. The report shows that other SPD detectives seemed to imply Gates maybe sharing info and/or telling individuals to hide evidence.
It includes a claim from one person who said that before a police raid happened, an officer (not naming Gates directly) “called his mom and told her what happened.” When asked if the officer was telling her “to ditch the evidence” she stated “yes” and “one of your detectives were letting her know everything was going down.”
Gates was interviewed three different times. Some of the details he provided changed in each one. For example, in one interview he denied meeting one of the suspects, but the report shows he later admitted he did know the person.
When asked directly by the internal affairs interviewer if he was “impartial” during his investigation, Gates blatantly said “no,” adding, “yes, it was personal” — which is a direct violation of the SPD code of conduct.
Finally, and perhaps most disturbing investigators found a package of “X-Stream” a fake urine product used to potentially pass a drug test, in the side pocket of Gates’ car. That package was empty.
Eventually, a panel of five officers including Assistant Chief Lenny Gunther, Major Devonn Adams and Captain David Gay wrote the board, looked at the evidence, deliberated and “sustained all the allegations against Officer Gates” including “untruthfulness,” and said the “appropriate and reasonable” discipline should be termination.
That recommendation then went to Minter’s desk. In a Feb. 4 memo, Minter did “sustain” (acknowledge) the charges of violation of oath of office, ethics and conduct against Gates.
But in the chief’s office, the recommendation of termination turned instead to a suspension: only 40 hours, or one week, without pay.
After that decision, the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office was told of the charges against Gates and placed the officer in what’s called the “Giglio files.” By definition, the files are an informal collection of officers who have “questionable character,” who still could, but most likely would not be used to testify in criminal cases.
But just a month later, a new memo was sent out saying the chief “clarified” his findings and without any explanation on paper or via phone to the D.A.’s office, suddenly took away the “untruthfulness” designation in favor of a “conduct unbecoming” and “impartiality” violations.
When News 3 asked why the chief switched the charges SPD sent a written statement:
“The Savannah Police Department initiated an internal affairs investigation into Officer Adrian Gates after possible allegations of misconduct were brought forth. The Internal Affairs Unit conducted a thorough investigation and, as outlined in the policy, presented its findings to the appropriate personnel. After examining the case in its entirety, suitable disciplinary action was administered to the officer and an accountability plan has been put in place to address any future courses of action. SPD continues to remain vigilant in securing the safety of this community, which means addressing any areas of concern in order to uphold the honorable standards of this agency.”
But that accountability is now in question because Gates has had two other incidents of “misconduct” in the same time period as this investigation was happening, including one where he possibly deployed a taser to intimidate someone while he was at an off-duty job, all while he was wearing Savannah Police Department equipment.
He received another two-week suspension in December of 2019, just two months before internal affairs finished their investigation.
As a side note, even after the chief saved his job, Gates was one of the 77 officers who signed the complaint letter against Minter.