5 Georgia officers fired, one on probation, after man's hanging death in police custody

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Five Georgia police officers have been fired in the wake of the hanging death of a man in police custody, attorneys of the man's family saidon Monday.

The Savannah Police Department fired Cpl. Silver Leuschner and Sgt. Michael Kerr as part of the initial investigation into the death of William Zachery Harvey, 60. Officer Matthew White was suspended, while three other officers, Sgt. Christopher Hewett, Cpl. Erica Tremblay, and Officer David Curtis, were terminated after sharing a meme of the hanging death in a group chat.

Another officer was placed on probation.

According to a police department release, Harvey was taken to police headquarters for questioning in connection to an aggravated assault investigation. He was in the interview room alone when he was found hanged.

Officers found him suffering from "injuries sustained by an object in his possession," the police department's release read. Police attempted life-saving measures, but they were unsuccessful. Harvey died in police custody on April 2.

Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis, who is representing the family, said the alleged aggravated assault may have occurred at a gas station in Savannah, Georgia, but no other details are known.

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Monday’s news conference came after Davis and his partner Francys Johnson met with Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter, Mayor Van Johnson and other city officials.

Van Johnson said while he and the council don’t have any input in the termination process, Savannah city manager Michael Brown upheld the firings based on findings from the internal affairs investigation.

“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,” Van Johnson said.

“Although I don’t have any role in the decision-making process I believe from my briefing that their investigation was thorough.”

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Attorney Francys Johnson echoed those sentiments: “This is a tough day. It’s a tough day for the city of Savannah for those who look to the Savannah Police Department to serve and protect, and it's a tough day for the Harvey family."

Davis said there are still next steps to consider, including a potential civil case. Davis said as far as the city knows, the case has not been turned over to the Chatham County District Attorney's Office yet. “That's a very critical next step because it is in that report and investigation that we will know whether anyone will be held criminally liable,” Davis added.

But the Harvey family begs for answers in the case.

“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.”

Shirley Harvey Francis (William Zachery Harvey's mother) spoke to the media recently.
Shirley Harvey Francis (William Zachery Harvey's mother) spoke to the media recently.

Since William Zachery Harvey's death, Francys Johnson said the law firm has received many “disturbing” complaints from residents regarding the Savannah Police Department. Those complaints have been forwarded to the city.

“What that says is there is a culture of toleration which would disgust any person on goodwill," Francys Johnson said.

Follow Raisa Habersham on Twitter: @newsworthy17.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: 5 Georgia officers fired after William Harvey died in police custody