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Savannah police officers fired after in-custody death

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 11:19 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Officers with the Savannah Police Department have been fired in response to the death of William Harvey, according to Mawuli Mel Davis and Francys Johnson, attorneys representing the Harvey family.

Savannah Police have confirmed the terminations stemming from Harvey’s death. Savannah Police’s Professional Standards Unit initiated an investigation into the three officers involved, according to a statement from SPD. Two officers were terminated and one was suspended.

Cpl. Silver Leuschner was terminated by a disciplinary review board for violating criminal investigation policy, employee responsibility, oath of office ethics and conduct and video/audio recording equipment.

Sgt. Michael Kerr was terminated by a disciplinary review board for violating supervisory responsibility.

Officer Matthew White was suspended by a disciplinary review board for violating employee responsibility and oath of office ethics and conduct.

William Harvey died while in custody of Savannah Police on April 3, 2021. A preliminary investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled Harvey’s death a suicide. Davis has previously said the camera inside the interrogation room was not activated at the time of Harvey’s death.

In late April, Savannah Police’s Professional Standards Unit opened a second investigation into a group chat message sent by one SPD officer to others officers. The message referred to the in-custody death investigation and included “an inappropriate meme/GIF attached,” according to a statement from Savannah Police. During SPD’s investigation, two supervisors and one officer were placed on administrative leave. Savannah Police says all three members of the department have been terminated.

Sgt. Christopher Hewett was terminated by a disciplinary review board for violating supervisory responsibility.

Cpl. Erica Tremblay was terminated by a disciplinary review board for violating supervisory responsibility, insubordination and office of professional standards.

Officer David Curtis was terminated by a disciplinary review board for conduct unbecoming of an officer, insubordination, treatment of others, truthfulness/honesty, and office of professional standards.

All terminated officers, with the exception of Curtis, filed an appeal with the police chief and city manager, but all terminations were upheld.

“Nothing we could say or do could bring him back, but we at least want the answers,” said Harvey’s son Michael Harvey.

“This family knew what any person of common sense knows that when you’re in the care, custody of the police you should be able to enter an interrogation room and emerge alive,” said Attorney Francys Johnson with Davis Bozeman Johnson Law.

“To have five officers, that were part of this in different levels, be disciplined and terminated sends a message for this family that their son, their father and their brother that his life, in fact, mattered,” said Mawuli Mel Davis with Davis Bozeman Johnson Law.

Family members including Harvey’s mother, son and sister say they’re glad some questions were answered, Monday, but one big one still looms.

“We just want to know, why,” asked Michael Harvey.

“We won’t stop until justice is served and somebody is held accountable for what happened to him,” said Harvey’s sister Felicia Shiggs.

The attorneys for Harvey’s family say they’re proud of the way the city is embracing accountability and that they’re not shying away from the fact that they failed Harvey.

“We as a firm have committed to ourselves and to this family that we will pursue any civil justice that may arise from what happened to Mr. Harvey on that fateful night,” said Davis.

After the release of this information it does mark the end of the Savannah Police Department’s investigations. The Harvey family’s attorneys say the GBI is handling it from here in terms of a criminal investigation.

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