Who was William Harvey? Georgia man, 60, hanged himself after cops left room
Five police officers were fired and 1 officer suspended in connection to the in-custody death of the suspect and for sharing a meme about his death
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: Five police officers from the Savannah Police Department in Georgia have been fired and one officer has been put under suspension, following the mysterious death of a 60-year-old suspect. The suspect, William Harvey, took his own life in the interrogation room when the officers left him alone and even ignored to turn on the video surveillance cameras in the room. Harvey appeared to have hanged himself with his shoelaces. Later, three of the former officers had shared a meme about his hanging death in a group chat.
The incident happened on April 2, 2021, following which an investigation was launched by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about his death in police custody. The Savannah Police Department announced the termination of Cpl. Silver Leuschner and Sgt. Michael Kerr in connection with the death while Officer Matthew White was suspended on June 14. Meanwhile, Sgt. Christopher Hewett, Cpl. Erica Tremblay and Officer David Curtis were also fired for sharing the sick meme about his hanging.
Who was William Zachary Harvey?
A resident of Savannah, William Zachary Harvey was born in 1960 according to prison records. On April 2, 2021, he was brought to the police station for questioning in connection to an aggravated assault. Harvey family attorney Mawuli Mel Davis has stated that the assault most likely took place at a gas station.
This was, however, not Harvey's first tryst with the law enforcement. Georgia Prison Arrest Records reveal a series of charges and convictions dating back to 1997. From 1997 to 2014, Harvey was arrested multiple times on charges of burglary, impersonation, criminal trespassing, possession of tools to commit crime, theft, escape, obstructing a law enforcement officer, and unlawfully entering vehicles.
Harvey committed most of his crimes in Chatham County. He has been sentenced several times for his crimes with the longest sentence being 20 years for burglary. In 2016, he was released from Coastal Transition Center in Savannah after serving time.
After he was interrogated on April 2, Harvey was left alone in the interrogation room for a while by cops Leuschner, Kerr, and White. When they returned, they found him unconscious in the room, with injuries to his neck. Though the three officers then attempted to save him, Harvey eventually succumbed to his injuries. The investigation bureau who probed his death later concluded that Harvey had died after hanging himself with his own shoelaces while left alone in the interrogation room.
According to DailyMail, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson condemned the incident of Harvey's untimely death, stating, "I promised the family that we would thoroughly investigate it internally and determine whether rules were broken or not followed, and we would have accountability. Although I don't have any role in the decision-making process, I believe from my briefing that their investigation was thorough."
Chief Roy Minter of the Savannah polic department said: "I don't think any of these officers had any malicious intent in what they did. But they made some poor decisions. They didn't follow department policy and procedure. Of course, poor decisions have consequences and in this particular situation, it had severe consequences." Minter in his press conference on June 15 said that the issue was not with the policies in place, but failure to follow the policies. The department has already taken initial steps to ensure policies will be followed in the future by members of the department at all levels "from the chief all the way down to the corporal, sergeant positions." Minter added that in his 35 years in law enforcement, he has not experienced an in-custody death where someone was left unmonitored in an interview room.
Meanwhile, Harvey's family is waiting for the final report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation before accepting the cause of his death as suicide. His elderly mother Shirley Harvey Francis, who is battling cancer, lamented the death of her son who was her primary caregiver. "He was the next thing to me to God. He saw that I took my medicine, he did everything for me, he was my lifeline in this world," she said.