Who was William Zachery Harvey, who died in Savannah police custody

Harvey’s family painted him as someone who would make them laugh and be there when they cried.

To Charie Francis, William Zachery Harvey was a brother. He was that, and more. 

“He was an uncle and he was a son to my mother,” said Francis during an April 9 press conference about the police custody death of Harvey. 

Harvey, 60, was found hanging in a Savannah Police Department interrogation room on April 2 after being brought in for questioning for aggravated assault, according to SPD and GBI releases. 

The SPD closed two investigations surrounding Harvey’s death, resulting in the firing of Cpl. Silver Leuschner and Sgt. Michael Kerr and suspension of Officer Matthew White as part of the initial investigation. 

Terminated: 5 Savannah officers fired, one on probation after man’s hanging death in police custody

A second investigation resulted in the firing of three officers — Sgt. Christopher Hewett, Cpl. Erica Tremblay, and Officer David Curtis — after sharing an inappropriate hanging meme related to the death.

The GBI’s investigation is still ongoing, but the preliminary cause and manner of death was ruled as suicide by hanging, according to the April 16 press release. 

Harvey’s family is still searching for answers.

More on each officer: Who are the 5 Savannah police fired in the wake of William Harvey hanging investigation?

“Where in an interrogation room could he have done this? Where? How?” Francis, Harvey’s youngest sister, asked during the April 16th press conference at the Davis Bozeman Johnson Law office.

Her older sister, Felicia Shiggs, was also present. “We just want to know how it happened, why did it happen.”

Harvey’s family, at the time, demanded that video footage of the incident be released, but the ongoing GBI investigation later confirmed in early May that no video footage was captured of the incident. 

Previous reporting:William Zachery Harvey’s family ‘blindsided’ by GBI ruling of death as suicide

According to a release from Davis Bozeman Johnson Law, the firm representing Harvey’s family, “Savannah Police Department failed to activate video inside the interrogation room.”

Harvey’s mother, Shirley Harvey Francis, had said that news made her “angry.”

Initial reporting: ‘He was my lifeline’: Family of William Zachery Harvey heartbroken by police custody death

In the first press conference regarding her son’s death held in April, Francis implored for answers. 

“I’m here because I want to know what happened to my child, I want to know, I need to know,” she said.

Francis, who is battling cancer, said her son was her primary caregiver. 

“He was the next thing to me to God,” she said. “He saw that I took my medicine, he did everything for me, he was my lifeline in this world.”

Charie Francis said her other siblings would check in on their mother periodically, but Harvey was by her side every day. Now, they are doing their best to make sure she’s okay, she said. 

“He cooked her breakfast, lunch and dinner, washed and folded her clothes,” said the younger Francis. “Now she won’t have that anymore…I’m worried for her.”

She described Harvey as someone who was close to his family.

“He was known as Uncle Zach to us and, once we started having children, he was known as ‘Uncle Bill’ to all my nieces and nephews,” she said. 

She said Harvey was there for her when she had lost her own son.

“He was my shoulder to cry on…” said Charie Francis. 

Charie also described Harvey as a man who “enjoyed life,” that he would make those around him laugh, including herself. He had attended her wedding last September.

“If you could see the way he was, you know that that’s not the man he was; what they say he did,” she said. “It hurts but I know it hurts my mother more.”

“He’s not just a 60-year-old man, he was my child,” said Harvey’s mother. “As long as I’m living, he’s my child.”

Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.

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