Clergy, community call for reform as Chief Roy Minter resigns from Savannah Police

Elder James Johnson makes a statement during a press conference following the shooting death of Saudi Arai Lee on June 24th in Carver Village.

Credit: NSMN

Combined ShapeCaption
Elder James Johnson makes a statement during a press conference following the shooting death of Saudi Arai Lee on June 24th in Carver Village.

Credit: NSMN

The announcement that Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter is stepping down at the end of this month to concentrate on the nomination process for the U.S. Marshals Service was met with concern by clergymen who on Wednesday called for his resignation.

Clergymen and Carver Village residents gathered in the community for a press conference several days following the shooting death of Saudi Arai Lee, 31. Lee was the fifth man shot and killed by Savannah police this year.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations’ initial press release, Lee showed officers his weapons permit and his holster with his weapon. At some point, which is not clear based upon available information, a chase ensued and an officer shot and killed Lee.

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A memorial for Saudi Arai Lee near the spot on West Gwinnett Street where he was killed by a Savannah Police officer on Friday June 24, 2022.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

A memorial for Saudi Arai Lee near the spot on West Gwinnett Street where he was killed by a Savannah Police officer on Friday June 24, 2022.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Combined ShapeCaption
A memorial for Saudi Arai Lee near the spot on West Gwinnett Street where he was killed by a Savannah Police officer on Friday June 24, 2022.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

The Racial Justice Network’s Elder James Johnson, who was at the press conference, said on Thursday after the announcement of Minter’s resignation that there were too many police shootings under Minter‘s watch, and Johnson is concerned about the outgoing chief potentially working for the U.S. Marshal Service.

“I’ll do all I can to stop that because his record is not good in Savannah,” he said. Johnson cited Savannah's high crime rate and police shortage as reasons for concern, and for the entire department to be reformed.

Minter’s potential appointment raises concern as well for Pastor Alan Mainor of Abundant Life Ministry, who said he felt Minter was essentially being rewarded for bad behavior.

“How could you leave a small city like this when you have turned your back on policy and turned your head to wrongdoing in your department and step into a bigger position that allows you to rule and be a position to damage more lives?” Mainor questioned. “If you couldn't do the right thing here in Savannah, how can we trust you as a U.S. Marshal to do the right thing?”

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Mainor is hopeful Assistant Chief Lenny Gunther, who was appointed by City Manager Jay Melder to serve as interim chief beginning July 30, will do better and bring police and communities together. “He’s young, but let’s pray that he’ll work with our community. We want to see the people we pay to protect and serve do the right thing by us.”

Minter is also leaving as the family of William Harvey continues to seek answers in the 60-year-old's hanging death inside an interrogation room at the Savannah Police Department headquarters.

“By him stepping down and not letting us know about anything else going on with the case, it’s like it just got thrown out of the window,” Harvery’s sister Felicia Shiggs told the Savannah Morning News. Shiggs said she last spoke to Minter more than a year ago after her brother’s death.

The Chatham County District Attorney’s Office is in possession of the case and is awaiting an opinion from a ligature expert before deciding whether to prosecute or close the case.

Harvey’s mother Shirley Francis suspected Minter might be asked to step down after recent news reports of officer shortages and officer complaints of Minter. “I did not figure he was a bad man,” Francis said, adding she didn’t blame him directly for what happened to her son.

But like Johnson, she does think the police department needs to be reformed. “The whole department needs to be examined.”

Raisa is a watchdog and investigative reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at rhabersham@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Clergy, community call for reform as Chief Roy Minter resigns from Savannah Police


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