Five Savannah Police Department officers have been fired following an investigation into the death of a man who authorities say killed himself while left alone in a police interview room.
William Harvey, 60, was taken into Savannah police headquarters for questioning on April 2. Harvey, who was Black, was being questioned in an aggravated assault investigation.
Officers say they stepped out of the interview room and when they returned to the room, they found Harvey unconscious. He had suffered injuries to his neck caused by a pair of Harvey’s shoelaces.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s preliminary findings said that the evidence showed Harvey died after hanging himself while left alone in the interview room.
The firings may tell a different story.
“What we know about an interrogation room is that it is supposed to be a place where in interrogation is going on which means that there is an officer there and there’s constant observation. So for anyone to have enough time to allegedly take their own life, is absolutely baffling and concerning for us,” said Mawuli Davis, the family’s legal representative said in April.
Savannah police said officers Sgt. Michael Kerr and Cpl. Silver Leuschner were fired for policy violations related to Harvey’s interview. They did not turn on the cameras in the interview room.
Three other officers were fired in connection with a text message sent to other officers that mocking Harvey’s death. One more officer was suspended.
“I promised the family that we would thoroughly investigate it internally and determine whether rules were broken or not followed and that we would have accountability,” Mayor Van Johnson said following the announcement of the terminations. “Although I don’t have any role in the decision-making process I believe from my briefing that their investigation was thorough.”
And while the firings may be a step in the right direction, the Harvey family is still desperate for answers.
“It’s just been hard finding out what happened and how it happened,” Michael Harvey said. “We had so many questions and we’ve got some answers. But we’re not going to stop until we get all our questions answered. We just want to know the truth. We just want to know why this happened.”