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The Savannah Police Department said Monday that it has fired five officers in connection with the death of a man who authorities say killed himself while left alone in a police interview room.
The department confirmed the firings after they were first announced by an attorney for the family of the man who died, 60-year-old William Harvey, following a private meeting with Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Police Chief Roy Minter.
Harvey was found dead April 3 at police headquarters, where he was being questioned in connection with an aggravated assault. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation released preliminary findings of its investigation April 16, saying evidence showed Harvey died after hanging himself with his own shoe laces while left alone in the interview room.
In a statement Monday, Savannah police said two officers — Sgt. Michael Kerr and Cpl. Silver Leuschner — were fired for policy violations related to Harvey's interview.
Police did not say what specific actions prompted their firing. But Francys Johnson, an attorney for Harvey's family, said city officials told him the officers had neglected to turn on video surveillance cameras in the room when Harvey was left alone.
“They failed to take the most basic step in policing,” Johnson said. “That’s beyond the pale. We shouldn’t be left to guess what happened in an interrogation room because it should be recorded.”
Three others officers were fired in connection with a text message shared among Savannah officers that mocked Harvey's death, the police statement said.
Johnson said Harvey's family still has questions about his death and is awaiting the GBI's final report before deciding whether to accept that he killed himself.
“Everything we’ve seen thus far lines up with that,” Johnson said, “but we won’t get ahead of the report."
He praised the mayor and police chief for investigating Harvey's death and taking disciplinary action. Johnson said the next step will be to determine if criminal charges or civil litigation are warranted.
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