Savannah community honors fallen officer with memorial at police headquarters
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -The Savannah community is mourning the loss of a hero on Monday after Savannah Police Sergeant Kelvin Ansari was killed in the line of duty on Saturday.
People in the community who knew Sergeant Ansari describe the military veteran and father as brave, dedicated, and someone you wanted to be around.
A memorial set up in front of police headquarters on Habersham Street is growing as a steady flow of people have come from throughout the community to show their support.
A group of children in attendence wrote a letter to Sgt. Ansari. Others have also stopped by to pay their respects and leave flowers.
“It’s sad and senseless, the death," said Vicki Rusk, a resident of Savannah. "I wanted to find out why in my heart. We wated to let him family know we care.”
Savannah resident Walter Gaultney says he hopes the tragedy will bring the Savannah community together to encourage people to make better decisions.
Savannah Police spoke with WTOC, describing the mood at police headquarters on Saturday.
The Savannah Police Chaplin Coordinator says it’s heart wrenching to get the call that an officer has been injured or killed, but says he’s prepared to help in any way he can.
Roberson says the department has peer counselors available and long-term counseling options after something like this happens.
“It’s very tough," said Roberson. "It’s a lot of people to help and not only the officers. We have spouses. we have children. And incidents like this create a lot of questions. A lot of people have questions they need answers to. We don’t try to answer all the questions, but we’re there as a shoulder to lean on. We cry with the officers and we do a lot of listening.”
“We’re mourning," said Lt. Gregory Mitchell. Lt. Mitchell worked with Sgt. Ansari at the central precinct. "We’re sorrowful. We’re in shock. There are a whole lot of adjectives you can think of, none of them good. We’re sad.”
Lt. Michell met Sgt. Ansari about 10 years ago and even as he cried at his memorial service, he comforted others feeling the same way.
“It’s hard," said Lt. Mitchell. “It’s really hard when you have a loss like this that is so senseless. It’s just a difficult time for us. He was a fun-loving person, had a good sense of humor. He was dependable. His work ethic was outstanding. He cared about the guys on his shift. He worked hard to help them be successful.”
Lt. Michell and elected officials, like Savannah Alderman Van Johnson, say this loss is particularly difficult because of the kind of person Sgt. Ansari was.
“He was an officer’s officer," said Alderman Johnson. "He did well and worked his way up through the ranks in relatively short order as of late as his leadership skills continued to grow.”
Before joining SPD in 2008, Sgt. Ansari served in the army for 21 years, something Johnson says Sgt. Ansari carried with him.
“I think among the first times I met him, you could just tell, ‘You were in the military.’ Very professional, very firm but resolute, very polite," said Alderman Johnson. "I just always enjoyed how he interacted with not only the officers, but also our public, and that’s the mark of a good police officer.”
Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach says the last 72 hours have been a nightmare, and all he can think about is what Sgt. Ansari’s family is going through.
“My brother lost a daughter years ago, and it just brought it all back," said Mayor DeLoach. "That same thing, that night in the hospital and the anguish that was being shown by the family, and the ability of the mind to be able to comprehend that someone’s gone that you’ve been so close to that you develop a family with is difficult to watch and watch folks comprehend and then eventually come to terms with this is real, but I can’t really believe it’s real.”
Mayor DeLoach said the department’s resiliency was evident almost immediately after Saturday’s shooting.
"One of the officers was asked by one of the relatives how do they go back out after they see this? He says ‘because we’re professional. That’s our job’,” said Mayor DeLoach.
He hope the community keeps that and Sgt. Ansari's family in mind as they deal with this loss.
“Over the course of the last few years there seems to be a preponderance of questions about how good or how bad all law officers are,” said Mayor DeLoach. "I want people to realize there is an inherently good part of anybody that will go out every day and stand there and do and protect me using their life to protect me. So I want them to go away with that attitude and go an meet that person with that attitude and thank them and thank their families for what they do every day.”
Sergeant Ansari’s death is being felt by officers in more departments than just Savannah PD and local leaders.
Chatham County sheriff John Wilcher held back tears and he mourned the loss of one of their very own.
Sheriff Wilcher says it doesn’t matter the department-any officer losing their life in the line of duty is like losing a member of your family.
“It’s a sad day in our community,” said Sheriff Wilcher. “It’s very sad, you know that we have to live in a time that we do like that where we can’t protect the people in the community without getting harmed. Times like these when we need each other and times not like this when we need each other and we work together constantly, the thing is divided we are together we stand and that’s what we do."
WTOC also spoke with Chatham County EMS.
“It hurts," said Chuck Kearns. “You know, it’s like losing a member of your family.”
“It’s just such a great loss in such an unneccessarily tragic way,” said Chatham EMS Lieutenant Charlie Phipps. “I actually didn’t learn until I came on duty the next morning that one of their officers lost their lives and then I did not even learn until later that day who it was and when I found out who it was it was heartbreaking, it was a big shock. Through the time I've been doing this, I've seen Sgt. Ansari on scene at least every week and to hear that he was taken from us in such a way is, you know it hurts us as a whole and as first responders we are a big family."
If you’d like to honor Sergeant Ansari, his memorial will remain at Savannah Police Headquarters throughout the week.
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