SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Savannah Police Chief is stepping down after four years of leadership to focus on the process of his U.S. Marshal nomination.

City officials said Chief Roy Minter will take time to prepare for the confirmation process to become a U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Georgia. His last day with SPD is July 29.

“Being Savannah’s police chief has been an honor and I look forward to the potential opportunity to continue my service to this community and all of southeast Georgia,” said Police Chief Roy Minter. “I am thankful for the experience these last four years. And while I am departing my role as police chief to focus on the confirmation process for my federal nomination, I remain thankful for the opportunities afforded to me by Team Savannah, the City Manager and our Mayor and City Council.”

Assistant Chief Lenny Gunther will serve as the interim Police Chief beginning July 30. Gunther has been with SPD since 2001.

“He’s been groomed pretty well not only by Minter but also working with assistant chief now, Adams. So if we’re looking at how our investments look, this is a return on our investment,” said Detric Leggett, District 2 Alderman.

Photo of Assistant Chief Lenny Gunther provided by the Savannah Police Department.

“We are grateful for his four years of service and his steadfast leadership of our police department,” said Joseph A. Melder, City Manager. “Chief Minter is the definition of a professional police chief, and I thank him for his tireless service to the City of Savannah, our residents, businesses, and visitors. I wish him well in the confirmation process and in all future endeavors, and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”

President Biden announced the nomination in late May along with nine other nominees to serve, two of whom are also in Georgia.

“Chief Minter has been a consummate professional and his legacy will live in his historic promotions of women within our ranks and the technological and programmatic advances that will keep the Savannah Police Department the premier municipal law enforcement agency in Georgia,” Mayor Van Johnson said. “Our city will forever be grateful for his efforts during some of the most challenging times in our history.”

Minter’s resignation announcement comes amid several controversies during his time leading the department.

Most recently, civil rights advocates called for his resignation after the city saw its fifth officer-involved shooting in 2022. On June 24, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) says Saudi Lee was shot dead by Savannah police.

Lee was walking in the middle of Gwinnett Street and immediately showed his wallet claiming it had his weapons permit inside. GBI says Lee then lifted his shirt and pulled a gun from a holster. He was then shot by an officer after a short chase. Medical aid was rendered on scene, Lee was taken to a hospital where he later died.

The GBI has taken over investigation of the case.

“It’s time for us to move on in a direction that’s going to be fitting of what we deserve in this city,” said Linda Wilder-Bryan, District 3 Alderwoman. “There are a lot of people who are frustrated and afraid.”

In April 2020, 77 officers filed complaints against Minter using words like threats, favoritism, lack of communication, dissension, intimidation and outright disrespect. The complaints detail a department in trouble, dealing with a chief accused of “making threats at his own command staff and supervisors in group settings” placed “as a warning to all to not disappoint him and to implant fear in the rank and file.”

The complaints describe Minter as using “intimidation and admonishment to instill embarrassment as a tool and instill his power in numerous meetings where officers, supervisors, and commanders were publically belittled in front of his peers and subordinates.”

A year later, one of two Savannah Police officers who was fired for their conduct during an arrest, filed a federal lawsuit against Minter and the city of Savannah. Daniel Kang said Minter violated his right to due process and fired him as retaliation for filing complaints about staffing and equipment in the department.

The suit also claims Minter told him in his disciplinary hearing he could “fire Kang for anything he wanted.” It also claims the chief has bragged about firing him and former Sgt. Octavio “Mike” Arango after a “use of force” complaint against them back in April of 2019.

Kang and Arango were fired from the Savannah Police Department back in August for allegedly using excessive force and foul language during an SIS Warrant Squad sweep at the Moss Pointe Apartments.

In April 2022, Alderman Kurtis Purtee claimed the department had morale and leadership problems.

“It’s a little concerning as an alderman. As a police officer, it concerns me even more that we are seeing a little bit of a spike in use of force incidents when it comes to officer-involved shootings,” said District 6 Alderman Kurtis Purtee, who also is a police captain for Georgia Southern University.