Five officers with the Savannah, Ga., police department have been fired and another placed on probation in connection with the hanging death of a man in police custody earlier this year. Officials made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday.
The family of William Zachary Harvey is still seeking answers after he was found hanged April 3, although the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined that his cause of death was suicide by hanging.
Harvey, 60, was being questioned at a police station by Savannah officers in an aggravated assault investigation. The officers stepped out of the interview room, but returned to find him unconscious with neck injuries caused by his shoelaces, according to the GBI. Life saving measures were engaged, but officers were unable to revive him. All of the officers involved were placed on administrative leave, according to Savannah Police Department officials.
In conducting its own investigation, two officers were terminated, Cpl. Silver Leuschner and Sgt. Michael Kerr, according to the Savannah Morning News. Another officer, Matthew White was suspended. Three other officers, Sgt. Christopher Hewett, Cpl. Erica Tremblay, and Officer David Curtis were fired after it was determined they shared a meme of the hanging death in a group chat.
Each of the officers who were fired, except Curtis, filed an appeal but all of the terminations were upheld.
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Family attorneys Mawuli Mel Davis and Francys Johnson, along with Harvey’s relatives, met with Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter and Mayor Van Johnson after the announcement of the terminations. Johnson said the department acknowledges Harvey’s death should not have taken place and that officers were in violation of department policies, the Morning News said.
“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," said Johnson.
It is unclear whether or not this will become a civil case and so far it has not been turned over to the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. The family, however, is still in disbelief that their loved one would have hanged himself and wants to know what really happened.
“It's just been hard finding out what happened and how it happened,” Harvey’s son Michael told the Morning News. “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.”