Six public safety employees were placed on leave after a Michigan woman was found unresponsive in a holding cell less than 12 hours after her arrest.
Priscilla Slater was found unresponsive at 12:45 p.m. by a Harper Woods public safety staffer on June 10, according to The Detroit Metro Times. She was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead at a local hospital. She had been arrested at 1 a.m. in connection with a shooting at a hotel in Harper Woods, a suburb of Detroit.
A cause of death has not been revealed. Authorities are awaiting autopsy and toxicology reports from the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Six Harper Woods public safety employees were placed on leave while the death is being investigated by the Michigan State Police. Harper Woods Public Safety Director Vincent Smith sent well-wishes to Slater’s family and promised to get answers.
“I offer my condolences to Ms. Slater’s family. MSP investigators, members of command and myself notified Ms. Slater’s family of the incident in an effort to provide whatever information that may have been available at the time,” Smith said in a statement. “MSP investigators are diligently investigating this incident with the complete cooperation of the Department. The cause of death will not be known until the results of the autopsy and toxicology report are completed.”
In an interview with Local 4 Defender, Smith said the suspensions were protocol and not an admission of guilt. The employees in question included four civilian aides and two supervisors.
“It is procedural right now,” Smith said. “The investigation is going on with state police. These six were on duty when Ms. Slater was found unresponsive. It is procedural to cooperate with the MSP investigation.”
Slater’s death sparked a tense protest in front of the Harper Woods City Hall. Demonstrators confronted Mayor Kenneth Poynter and his wife as they walked into the building on Friday, June 12, two days after Slater’s death. Poynter’s wife managed to snatch a sign and rip it. Slater’s family is also holding the city accountable and has retained attorney Geoffrey Fieger.
“There is no way the police wouldn’t see that somebody was in a serious medical need,” Fieger said, according to Fox 2 Detroit.
Fieger is launching an independent investigation into Slater’s death.
“The indifference to Black lives by the powers that be is astounding,” Fieger said. “It doesn’t happen to rich white people.”