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Savannah PD charges suspect in 2020 shooting death of Kareem Smalls

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 10:34 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 3:46 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Savannah Police Department says its Major Crimes Unit has charged a suspect in the 2020 death of Kareem Smalls nearly one year after his fatal shooting on Draper Street.

According to SPD, officers responded to Gwinnett Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard around 11 p.m. on Nov. 23, for a vehicle crash with injuries and discovered Smalls in the vehicle suffering from gunshot wounds. Detectives determined that the shooting occurred in the 600 block of Draper Street.

Smalls, also known as “Free Lunch Baby,” was transported to the hospital where he died as a result of his injuries.

Kareem Smalls
Kareem Smalls(WTOC)

Homicide Unit detectives initially worked on the case. In May, the case was handed over to the Major Crimes Unit, who identified and located individuals with information and additional evidence which, combined with the initial investigation, led to an arrest.

On Monday, Nov. 1, SPD charged Dyanta Samuels, 24, with murder. They say Samuels was already in custody at the Chatham County Detention Center on charges in connection to a drug investigation from August.

“SPD’s Homicide Unit built a solid case that was taken over by our Major Crimes Unit earlier this year,” Chief Roy Minter said. “As a result of their hard work and dedication to this case and their commitment to the Smalls’ family, this case resulted in an arrest. A number of things contributed to a successful outcome in this investigation, including multiple people coming forward with information. We encourage the public to reach out to us with any information in any possible crime in this city. A tiny piece of information has the potential to bring closure to victims, or in this case, a grieving family.”

“We’re not supposed to lose our children. It’s hard enough when they’re ill and we’re kind of prepared but when they walk out your door and you tell them you love them and you tell them to be careful, and then you don’t see them anymore. I just don’t know how to explain,” said 3rd District Alderwoman Linda Wilder Bryan.

It happened in Alderwoman Linda Wilder Bryan’s district, but she says these shootings are happening in all districts. She says justice doesn’t give you air, but for parents like her who have lost their children to gun violence, it’s a start. Alderwoman Wilder Bryan says Kareem’s mother called her to tell her about the arrest.

“When she called me yesterday, I promise I could not stop screaming.”

She says so many other mothers are waiting on that call.

“It’s like having cancer, if you can equate it to meaning the same thing, and ringing a bell because you know something good has happened.”

Mayor Van Johnson says the arrest brings accountability.

“I knew Mr. Smalls personally and so to have this young man to lose his life, was devastating, personally hurtful. But on the other end of it, to know his family will be soon on the road to accountability is really where the rubber meets the road for us,” said Mayor Johnson.

“I’m just so happy that she gets her day in court. She needs to be able to look at the person who stole her son.”

Chief Roy Minter also says he’s proud of detectives because the case came with a lot of hard work and long hours. He added the arrest was also made possible with the help of multiple people stepping forward in the community.

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