Savannah father demands answers over son’s wrongful arrest

Police arrest wrong suspect

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A Savannah father wants answers from the city’s police department. James McGill Jr. said detectives arrested his son and threw him in jail for 22 days, even though he gave them evidence proving his son’s innocence.

Police released McGill from jail a couple weeks ago, seemingly admitting they got the wrong guy. We finally got word that they officially dropped charges last week. His family said McGill III is a victim of police officers looking to solve a violent crime. His father can hardly believe what he and his family have been through the last two months.

“I was bewildered. I sat in the parking lot of the police station for about an hour and a half trying to wake up from this nightmare,” James McGill, Jr said.

McGill took his son to Savannah Police Headquarters on Christmas Eve last year. His father said detectives had been trying to reach the younger James for a couple days regarding an open armed robbery case.

James McGill III
James McGill III (Source: Family)

“I had told James and prepared him for this could go either way, but when he went in there according to the detective, James wouldn’t verify his name,” McGill said.

Officers arrested him that day. McGill showed WTOC the warrant that detectives came to his house with a few days later. The armed robbery involved a man who was stabbed in the downtown area.

Search warrant for the McGill's house
Search warrant for the McGill's house (Source: James McGill)

“I raised him. I’ve been feeding him for 27 years,” McGill said. “You’re talking about a young man that went through 12 years of grade school without a fight, so it just didn’t make sense. It didn’t add up at all.”

Police said the robbery happened on 200 block of East Huntington Lane on the morning of Dec. 18. The next day in a press release, they said it happened around 10:50 that morning. Surveillance video at the Carey Hilliard’s on Skidaway shows him clocking into work at 10:25 that morning. This is more than four miles from the crime scene. However, the 911 calls from the scene came in at 10:15. That means the crime happened closer to 10 and not 10:50. As for 10 o’clock, his father said his son was at a gas station on the Southside at that time. A receipt appears to prove that. This store is 12 miles from the crime scene.

“That should’ve cleared him,” McGill said. “I’ve been screaming at the top of my lungs that he isn’t guilty.”

BOLO truck (L); James' truck (R)
BOLO truck (L); James' truck (R)

That’s not it. The truck police put out in a BOLO the day after the crime is an older model F-150. James’ truck is the same color, but it’s several years newer and has a truck bed cover.

“They wanted to make James the fall person,” McGill said. “[For] clearance numbers, and it was close to downtown. The man that was assaulted does deserve justice, but I got a feeling he’ll never get it.”

Police tell a different story. They claim to have released James soon after getting evidence of him at the gas station. The Savannah Police Department denied our request for an on-camera interview. They said their detectives followed protocol.

The department refused to answer specific questions. They issued a statement that said in part, “As soon as the exculpatory evidence was presented, detectives immediately began to investigate the claims. Prior to this new information, there was no alibi presented to the detectives that definitively cleared Mr. McGill as a suspect. After investigating this new information and consulting with the DA’s Office, it was determined that Mr. McGill should be released. The robbery investigation remains open and detectives continue to search for a suspect.”

McGill said the case shows him, as a black man, how important it is to have an alibi. His son plans to sue the police department and the detectives who worked the case.

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