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Tensions Rise in Savannah, Georgia, After Police Kill Black Man While in Custody

On Thursday, Savannah, Georgia, was the site of a familiar scene — an outraged Black community protesting after police shot and killed a 29-year-old Black man, Charles Smith, under questionable circumstances while the man was in custody in the back of a Savannah squad car.

Angry crowds swarmed the Savannah streets as local officials — including Savannah’s African-American mayor, Edna Branch Jackson — pleaded for calm, trying to squelch anything resembling the riots that rocked Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was shot by police last month.

Members of the crowd demanded justice for Smith, and eyewitnesses relayed a sequence of events that differed from the police account — again reminiscent of the divergent accounts after Brown’s killing in Ferguson.

Smith was arrested on outstanding warrants Thursday and placed in a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to Sherry Lang, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the statewide agency that took over the investigation at the request of Savannah police.

Lang told The Associated Press that Smith somehow was able to move his hands to the front of his body and kick out a window of the patrol car. At this point, officers claimed to notice that Smith had a gun as he tried to exit the patrol car — even though the officers had presumably checked Smith for weapons before he was handcuffed. So 10-year police department veteran David Jannot proceeded to shoot the man, killing him.

Lang said a gun was found under Smith’s body.

The incident was captured on video by eyewitnesses, Lang confirmed.

Eyewitness Maurice Williams, 27, who knew Smith from the neighborhood, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he saw Smith in the back of a police car about 11 a.m. As he watched it go by, he saw the 6-foot-7 Smith kick out the window, fold his legs out and push on the door. At this point, Williams said he saw the officer exit the car and say “Do you want to die?” while he shot Smith in the legs.

Smith escaped out the window and fell to the ground, at which point the officer fired his weapon into Smith’s head and back.

The Rev. Leonard Small of Litway Baptist Church addressed the angry crowd, according to the AJC, noting that more “of our Black boys are being killed by police than were killed by the Ku Klux Klan by rope.”

Small told the paper he dropped off three eyewitnesses to meet with investigators from the GBI. Small said he sat in one of the interviews and was baffled by how a gun suddenly appeared underneath Smith.

“Nobody saw a gun,” he said. “The man holding the camera turned his back and there was a big gun.” 

“I don’t believe it,” he said. “They didn’t find the gun when he was frisked and put in the police car. It was a big gun.”

Smith’s mother, Penny Nelson, and his aunt, Andrina Hardy, told the AJC, “We want to know why he was shot in the head,” Hardy said. “He was handcuffed.”

Nelson said her son was the father of a toddler and had another child on the way. Though she said the 29-year-old had served time in prison for stealing a car, “he didn’t sell drugs and he wasn’t a violent person.”

“You can see how liked he was. Look at all these people,” she said. “We want justice for my boy. You couldn’t ask for a better friend.”

Jannot has been put on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Julian Miller said in a written statement, according to AP.


What people are saying

63 thoughts on “Tensions Rise in Savannah, Georgia, After Police Kill Black Man While in Custody

  1. Sad Sigh.
    On the one hand,…. I fully understand why more and more blackmen are resisting police – Police are killing us with little provocation even when we don't resist.
    Instead of holding police to a higher standard – we search thru the victims past to justify handcuffing and killing him.
    Then,.. police who handcuffed and frisked him "suddenly" find a gun on him AFTER they kill him.

    Why is this insanity ignored by the general public?

  2. Joan Coulter says:

    Darnel – It can only be addressed if it is reported by the media. Not everybody has a computer where we can read about these things. If the media wants to sweep it under the rug then we don't get to know about it. I heard that these types of thug police murders are occurring at least 5 times a week across the country. There always has been a war on Black men since the end of slavery, with the support of the U.S. government. Things are no different not. As a matter of fact, these cop thugs have stepped up their game exponentially and, as far as I'm concerned, with the support of the United States Government. Now, if you will noticed, these thugs have included Black girls and women in their genocide.

  3. I agree. The problem lies with a large group of people who are "tired" of hearing about it,.. but instead of going after the cause of all the noise,.. the Police showing a heavy hand and killing w/o consequence, they attack the victims and anyone who complains.

  4. I once posted this on my FB page,.. and it started an argument with people who don't want to confront the police involving the high rate of killing minorities in situations where they wouldn't pull a gun out.

    "It was a good point made – that folk who are tired of others complaining about racism and discrimination usually don't face racism and discrimination and instead of stopping folk who are racist and discriminate would rather do the easier thing and complain about those who are tired of being discriminated for complaining about it."

  5. Paul L Poole says:

    Not gonna take sides, did anyone read the story. I'm not going to judge, I wasn't there when it happened. But he kicked out the patrol car window after he placed his hands in front. He kicked open the door and got out with a gun. Then he was shot. The gun was recovered under his body. The person filming the incident just happened to turn away when the gun was pulled. Now it's being said he didn't have a gun. With all these people watching the police officer I guess got a drop gun and put it under his body. I say let's allow the investigation to take place. If the cop murdered this young man then I hope he is sent to prison. But if it was justified then stand behind him. Also cops have missed guns before while arresting people because of poor searches.

  6. I read the story.
    I don't know what planet this was on because I was trained in law enforcement and if we apprehended anyone we did a thorough pat down for weapons THEN put them in the vehicle. There is a stereotype that there are police who have a "gun" for when they mess up.
    This seems to qualify.

  7. So the police did not do a thorough pat down? I doubt it!

  8. You are part of the problem! By not acknowledging the genocide being perpetrated on our young Black men, from murder to incarceration, you are acting like justice is color blind. We can no longer ignore the statistics that are readily available. Mortal force is unjustifiable when an alternative is possible and who does not know how to plant a gun,

  9. John Davis says:

    Its not ignored, its more like accepted. We cant come together as a group so we will slowly torn apart….

  10. Jeff Leja says:

    From multiple witnesses on scene, as he was originally being arrested, bystanders started acting like retards so cops were trying to get him out of there before an incident happened. You kick a window out, and pull a gun, ….you're gonna get shot. It's that simple! Don't give the cops a reason to interact with you, and you will have nothing to worry about. Throw all your dreams of being a 'gsngsta' out the window, this applies to all races, religions, and backgrounds.

  11. Sunshine Daniels says:

    R you implying the story told by the officer HAS to be true? Are we saying police NEVER lie?

  12. Anthony McCommons Sr. says:

    I agree with Paul. It's to early to say. Yes some police may lie, buy every criminal I've known since I was a child also lies. It's just funny that many assume that the witnesses want lie. Or really just don't know what happened.

  13. Cole Smith says:

    Where's the video recording of this?

  14. Our lives means knowing to the usual suspects.

  15. Jeff Leja says:

    I am not implying that the officer MUST be right, we all know police lie. We will see in the coming days how much of the camera footage "disappears" or is still available. That will be the ONLY unbiased witness.

  16. You go go to Wayne State ,is that A COP UNIVERSITY,cause that what you sound like…..peace out.

  17. Kevin Michael says:

    Darnel Cooper Shit happens man. Simple as that. Hell people who were "searched and patted down" have shot themselves in the head after being left alone in an interrogation room

  18. Kevin Michael says:

    Darnel Cooper No sarcasm at all. Perhaps you should do research instead of getting mad over someone who was killed a month ago. Someone that makes 0 difference to your life. I understand that racism occurs but you can't call every single white guy killing a black guy a hate crime. Statistically speaking, Black people kill each other more than any other race killing blacks just like whites kill each other more than any other. Ill wait for the "You're not black so you don't understand" bullshit.

  19. Kevin Michael says:

    Also if I thought for 1 second that I saw a gun on that man. I would've blew him out of his fucking socks. Guns shoot just fine regardless if you're handcuffed or not.

  20. That's the problem,.. I've done the research,.. the facts don't lie,.. no matter how much folk try to redirect attention,.. example, bringing up black on black in a convo about the high propensity of blacks being killed in situations where whites are not. Even the media has noticed how whites can walk around waving a rifle while blacks are shot and killed for holding a toy.
    No,.. what you said was best seen as sarcasm, otherwise you exhibit how you are part of the problem, excusing police behavior because "blacks kill blacks in higher numbers than police do,… TSK.
    So by that logic we should only have a concern if we bring the number of color on color or ethnic on ethnic crime down to below the percentage of the police who are supposed to serve and protect while killing unarmed citizens?
    What's wrong with that picture?

  21. Anthony Batiste says:

    Kevin Michael Another dumb white piece of excrement. OF COURSE we care animal. Kill yourself. Illegal scum

  22. Anthony Batiste says:

    Jeff Leja I'm always amused when "white things" masquerading as human beings defend their KKK police kin.

  23. Anthony Batiste says:

    Has the cop(s) in question been burned alive yet?

  24. Anthony Batiste says:

    Kevin Michael illegal rat. Hopefully they'll kill you and your entire contaminated family. #scum

  25. Kevin Michael says:

    Anthony Batiste Lmao first you call me white and now i'm illegal? You're a fucking moron. Go collect your food stamps you ignorant asshole.

  26. Anthony Batiste says:

    Kevin Michael Wetback, you can be a "white Hispanic". You're the ignorant illegal piece of excrement. Remember MexiTrash® Hispanic isn't a "race"….

  27. Kevin Michael says:

    Anthony Batiste Guy calls me hispanic when his last name is Batiste. Lol you can call me all the ignorant hispanic racial slurs you want man because i'm not hispanic at all. It's almost that time of the month to go collect your welfare. Don't forget!

  28. Anthony Batiste says:

    Kevin Michael "Batiste" isn't Hispanic. Yes, you are Hispanic… you're just ashamed of having a genetic predisposition for swimming… #Wetback

  29. Jeff Leja says:

    Anthony, how am I defending the police? You have just shown your true racist colors. YOU, and those lime you are the reason things like this happen.

  30. Sunshine Daniels says:

    @jeffleja I think part of the problem may be your statement, "don't give cops a reason to interact with you. " A lot of minorities & people of poorer demographics do not have that option. It's not just as easy as staying away from the police. If it were that easy we would.

  31. Anthony Batiste says:

    Whites are programmed to hate blacks. This country's white supremacist foundation thrived on hatred.

  32. Jeff Leja says:

    @Sunshine, Sadly many demographics have 'bought in' to Hollywood's portrayal of the "Gangster" and "Outlaw" life. This, for obvious reasons, brings the attention on cops (decent and crooked). If society would stop glorifying this sort of behavior, I think many of these issues would nearly disappear.

  33. Sunshine Daniels says:

    I think we just need responsible honest law enforcement officers, PERIOD. Criminals have existed forever & law enforcement wasn't developed many years ago just for the hell of it, there clearly was a need. Police officers ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT shooting unarmed teens in the streets because of media glorification pertaining to "outlaw lifestyles"..I think these things are two separate issues. We don't want to down play the loss of life by brushing it off on a gangster image theory, this implies the dead are/were at fault which in some cases is extremely insulatory..

  34. Wesley Yawn says:

    Im pretty sure it didn't matter if he was black or white. He kicked the window out of a police car . He had a gun. He crawled out the window. I think a black police officer would have shot him too, but the officer should have checked better.

  35. Savanah Juliana says:

    Jeff Leja Taking a look and criticizing the victim of murder, instead of the murderer is like blaming your foot for your tooth ache, it just doesn't make any sense. People are understandably angry right now and are demanding justice from coast to coast. Militarized and under trained police are a threat to us all and need to be addressed. Let the dead lay peacefully without you throwing around ignorant remarks, that man will never try to escape anyone, ever again.

  36. So,.. I blew you out of the water with logic and offeres of documentation,.. and you deleted both your posts?
    Sucks to be you – to be so rigid in your beliefs in full opposition to facts and reality.

  37. Savanah Juliana says:

    Wesley Yawn What you must take into account is the fact that this isn't an isolated incident. Its a sociological epidemic. Just like, you might be able to blame a single person for being unemployed but do you still blame that single person in 1930? No because there are bigger players involved. An unarmed man getting shot has become an all too familiar point of discussion. We need to address undertrained, psychologically weak, militarized police using retired military weaponry treating citizens like enemies on foreign soil. These are Our Streets. We pay them. "Protect and Serve" – that is about us, not them.

  38. Savanah Juliana says:

    Are we really suppose to believe that police officers are truly so useless and bad at their jobs that the only way they know how to deal with a handcuffed citizen is with a gun? GIVE ME A BREAK! Fire the whole lot of these yahoos and bring in people who don't suffer so heavily with superiority complexes, psychological weakness, and a pension for violence. Lets actually train these supposed to be trusted professionals, not just hand the dude a weapon. I mean, these jokers don't even know basic law or the constitution which they are sworn to uphold. These guys are murdering people left and right, how can we pretend that this isn't a big deal. I am tired of being bullied by corrupt losers on some sort of power trip.

  39. Jeff Leja says:

    Exactly, problem solved.

  40. Jeff Leja says:

    Oops, this was meant as a reply to a comment

  41. Jeff Leja says:

    Anthony Bastard (LOL, that's a great auto-correct) Take your racist hate – spreading ass elsewhere. Jackasses like you (all races) are keeping racism alive, good job.

  42. Paul L Poole says:

    Just saw your posts, you guys are really going at it. Cops have missed guns during poor searches. My question was, with all the people that witnessed this shooting, who saw the cop put the drop gun under the body? Sometimes it is what it is. I think this is a bad search that really ended bad. I'm not going to get into what you two guys were commenting on. It's funny, I went to Wayne State.

  43. There was a "third" guy who lost his argument and apparently deleted his posts.

  44. Vance Barnes says:

    man the south is becoming the way it used to be not safe for darkskin people

  45. Rob Mills says:

    Just another thug asking for trouble. He got shot because he was resisting arrest, threatening the police and destroying property. He asked for trouble and he got it.

  46. Evan Powell says:

    White dirty trash people should never be existing because they are causing serious problems everyday. There is no justice for blacks in this country; therefore, we should take matters into our hands by killing as much white people on the street and breaking into their homes and killing them as possibles. White people but rats and they smell like feces.

  47. Evan Powell says:

    I apologize for the typing error. I am just angry & anxious to murder white people including kids.

  48. Larry Nixon says:

    He arrested McGuyver

  49. Larry Nixon says:

    He arrested McGuyver

  50. What are the statistics upon which you rely? As an LEO, I know of no one who goes to shift thinking how he or she can kill a black person yet you insinuate that is what happens.

    The facts are simple. The subject was handcuffed behind his back. The video shows that. The subject kicks out the window of the police car and now,his hands are in front of him. He has a weapon, is shot and the weapon recovered.

    Is it just possible that this subject had ill intent upon his mind?

    Is it possible, he authored his demise?

    Is it possible, color had nothing to do with this?

    Is it possible that your ruminations are fueled by the bigotry in your eye?

  51. Darnel Cooper A proper search prior to being put in the patrol car should be done. Often, people get complacent and searches get sloppy.

    What is your factual basis for smearing Officer Jannot with an allegation he placed a weapon under the deceased?

    Officer Jannot is personally known to me. He is a stand up guy. I have never known him to be a racist. His personnel file is clean.

    If you have concrete proof the gun was placed as a throwdown, you need to give this information to the GBI. If you are just flapping your gums, please do us a favor and stop!

  52. Savanah Juliana What is the basis of your conclusion? Do you have statistics or are you just venting spleen from your own bigoted world view?

  53. Teeke Daniels Like Ferguson, when the facts came out after a thorough investigation by the GBI, it appears that your deceased was the author of his own misfortune. Can police lie? Sure! Do some black people lie? Sure!

    Before you trash an officer, please do us a favor and get some facts.

  54. Given all the shootings in Savannah, I would think black folks might be better served being concerned about the black folks shooting other black folks. Those numbers exceed the number of whites shooting blacks.

  55. It might better serve all of us if black parents did a better job of parenting! The lack of two parent training of the children they created is appalling today. There is no respect, only attitude. The discussion ought to include why young black males find it necessary to adopt attitudes that do not serve them well, long term.

    LEOs receive training daily and have to acquire, on their own, 20 hours of POST credit. My department requires the officers to receive 80-160 hrs of training a year. Training is not the issue.

    Looking at one's self in the mirror is.

  56. Complacency affects police as it does others. The deceased was cuffed behind the back. He kicks out a window and now has the cuffs on the front of him and has a weapon in his hand. What did you expect would happen? Can you not see this matter was brought to the fatal conclusion because the deceased chose to escape and brandish a weapon. Does your bigotry blind you so that you cannot see facts?

  57. Darnel Cooper What do you base your conclusion? Are you so blinded by your bigotry that you cannot see and understand facts?f

  58. Joan Coulter I can see why the debate never moves off center. Facts do not get in your way!

  59. You obviously want to argue,.. why else would you have two posts back to back voicing your opinion and trying too hard to get personal,.. you don't know me,.. but you "know" all about me.
    Here you are arguing against my saying that there is a problem,… by calling me a bigot.


  60. Kevin Joseph Street Yeah, no. Definitely not. Attempting to sidestep an American Police issue that is recognized WORLD WIDE by simply placing blame on the victims seems about as lazy as it is ignorant. While we're at it, let's place blame on rape victims instead of the rapists. How about we start blaming children in child abuse cases. HELL, if you get mugged, its YOUR FAULT. It's not difficult to understand that OF COURSE you want to say it's not cops, being that you are one. You might want to follow your own advise and "look at one's self in the mirror." Being that I am neither black nor male, AND that I'm not a uniformed murderer, I have the ability to look at this issue from the outside. The trend in this country to use excessive force and violence, resulting in death, to citizens is down right WRONG. Police think they are above the law, and I haven't met one yet who knew the constitution or even locally governing laws in total. On the other hand, I've witnessed people who know their constitutional rights be pummeled on the street and then taken to jail. Why? Because they were "resisting arrest?" Arrest for what? nothing. This sort of fail/fail situation is systemic and the fault doesn't lay with one person in particular, but rather the institution itself. That being said, if you kill an unarmed person with NO reparations, you are a murderous POS who shouldn't ever get the pleasure of a good nights rest again. SHUT IT DOWN! BLACK LIVES MATTER!

  61. Andrew Horn says:

    Kevin Joseph Street You know Evan Powell is just trolling, right? Don't feed the trolls. man.

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