SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The interrogation room camera was off, but according to a Savannah Police Department (SPD) spokesperson, officers’ body cameras recorded both their interactions with William Harvey inside the room and when they discovered he’d hanged himself after being left alone.
“I personally watched part of a video involving interaction between the detective and Mr. Harvey and then some additional videos, and I can tell you it was some of the hardest things for me to watch,” Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter told reporters Tuesday.
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), SPD life-saving measures attempted were unsuccessful.
“We had members of the department that did not follow department policy and procedure, and could have made better decisions that, I believe, if those two things were done, could have possibly prevented Mr. Harvey from losing his life,” Minter continued.
Two officers involved in the interrogation were fired; one was suspended. Minter says in 35 years of policing. this situation was a first.
“I’ve never had an experience where I’ve experienced an in-custody death with any agency where someone’s been left unmonitored in an interview room.”
Making matters worse, a few days after Harvey’s death three SPD officers, including a supervisor, were involved in a text chain mocking what happened.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson told reporters: “Obviously it’s insensitive, however, I recognize that as a police officer, that police officers have really weird senses of humor. But the fact of the matter is that this wasn’t funny.”
All three involved in the texts were fired. Chief Minter says he’s heard from several officers who are embarrassed that anyone at SPD would send something so insensitive — an indication, according to the chief, that the problem is not systemic.
“That tells me we don’t have a cultural issue inside the department,” Minter said. “We had an issue with individuals inside the department who made another very poor decision.”
Meanwhile, the GBI is still conducting their investigation into Harvey’s death.