SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Two years later a family is still looking for answers. In 2021 The Savannah Police Department say William Harvey hanged himself.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it, and that’s why I’m here because I want to know what happened to my child. I want to know. I need to know,” Shirley Harvey Francis said on April 9, 2021, as she stood outside of the SPD Headquarters where her son took his last breath.
The Savannah Police Department said William Harvey took his own life with an “Object in his possession.” Police say he was alone inside an interrogation room. Harvey’s family said he was found hanged.
The family said Harvey told police he had anxiety, was depressed and told them he’d take his own life if he went back to prison.
Two police officers who interacted with Harvey were fired after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled it a suicide.
Weeks after Harvey’s death, SPD officers texted an animated GIF to each other in a group chat, showing what looks like a Black person hanging themselves. The group chat was named “Eastside night shift.”
Those three officers were also fired.
“We believe that such things, in times such as these, are completely and absolutely racially insensitive,” Civil Rights Activist Rev. Leonard Small said on April 29, 2021, just weeks after Harvey’s death.
On March 14, 2023, the family officially filed a lawsuit alleging the police were negligent. The full lawsuit is listed below.
“They leave them. They leave them with all of those circumstances, with all of that information. They leave him there by himself without any video or audio, without any supervision,” Mawuli Davis the family’s attorney said. “It was absolutely preventable, without question.”
Recently, the City of Savannah’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the $12 million lawsuit.
“I think that, again, this is within the purview of the courts,” Mayor Van Johnson said. “And I think that there are legal motions that must be filed on behalf of the facts. And so the city attorney is duly authorized to defend the city of Savannah.”