SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Two officers have been fired from the Savannah Police Department (SPD) following an excessive use of force investigation.
After watching the body camera video of the incident, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap is convening a special grand jury to discuss criminal charges against the pair.
Sgt. Octavio “Mike” Arango and Cpl. Daniel Kang — who had 15 and 8 years experience respectively — were placed on leave shortly after an incident in April.
“Two members of the (warrant) squad violated several policies including our use of force policy,” said Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter.
The men were caught on a police body camera during a warrant sweep using what is being called excessive force against an individual.
That person turned out not to be the suspect the officers were looking for in the first place.
Though an internal affairs investigation called for their suspension, SPD Chief Roy Minter made the decision to fire Arango and Kang. They were officially separated from the department on July 30.
“The conduct of two members of the Savannah Police Department during this particular incident was totally unacceptable and egregious behavior on their part,” Minter said. “I do not believe that their behavior during this incident is in line with the core values of our department which is to protect serve and to build trust in this community. I do not believe that their behavior is in line with what we expect for Savannah Police Department members of city employees or people that are charged with serving and protecting this community.”
The recommendation for the officers’ firing and request to involve the district attorney was made by the Savannah CARES (Citizens Accountability and Review of Emergency Services) task force, which was assembled just a few months ago to investigate incidents involving use of force and internal affairs data.
The task force reviewed body camera footage of the April incident and forwarded their recommendations to the chief and district attorney.
“I was horrified,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. “As someone who served as a law enforcement officer and a member of this community, I felt personally that it was absolutely inappropriate. I felt as a human resources professional that the chief’s actions were absolutely appropriate.”
During a protest for George Floyd’s death, the mayor announced the creation of the task force to examine the police department.
“I meant what I said on that hot day at the end of May,” Johnson said, “that it would be a new day in Savannah, that Black lives matter, that everyone’s lives matter, that we are going to make sure that people are treated with dignity and respect.”
Johnson said each member of Savannah CARES signed a confidentiality agreement “that is fully enforceable” before reviewing Arango and Kang’s case because they would view things the general public would not.
“One (officer’s dismissal) was sustained on three department policy violations the other on seven department violations,” said Minter. “We did not have to search to find policies that governor their activities. The policies were in place the department policies were very clear. It was very clear to these officers that they violated those department policies.”
Meanwhile, Heap has called for a special grand jury to look at the case the week of Sept. 14. At this time, the officers have not been arrested or formally charged.
Although Heap could not comment on what the footage shows, she called it “concerning.”
“The best way I can ensure justice is to put this case in front of a grand jury as soon as possible,” said Heap.
“We will support our police department but yet we are going to be committed that the people who do bad things who don’t want to serve and protect will no longer be members of our police department,” said Johnson.
Minter said that while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was consulted, it probably would’ve taken longer to move forward with the case with the agency leading the investigation.