Cops say they gunned down handcuffed man because he was armed — but we’re skeptical
Police in Savannah, Georgia, fatally shot a handcuffed man who they say kicked out a patrol car window and tried to escape with a gun.
Officers arrested 29-year-old Charles Smith about 11 a.m. Thursday on outstanding warrants, reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and his hands were cuffed behind his back and he was placed in the back seat of the police car.
Police said Smith, who was 6 feet 7 inches tall, somehow managed to move his hands to the front of his body, kick out the window, and attempt an escape.
Officers said they realized Smith had a gun when he tried escaping the patrol car, and one of the officers shot him to death.
Investigators said they found a gun under Smith’s body, but community members doubted the police account and held a demonstration at the shooting scene.
“I don’t believe it,” said Rev. Dr. Leonard Small. “They didn’t find the gun when he was frisked and put in the police car? It was a big gun.”
The incident was apparently videotaped, but Small said the evidence still doesn’t add up.
“Nobody saw a gun,” the reverend said. “The man holding the camera turned his back and there was a big gun.”
An acquaintance of Smith’s saw him in the back of the patrol car as it drove past, and he saw the handcuffed man kick out the window and push on the door with his legs.
Eyewitness Maurice Williams said an officer got out of the patrol car as Smith kicked the window a third time and ask the prisoner, “Do you want to die?”
Then the officer shot Smith in the legs.
Williams said Smith, who was still handcuffed, escaped out the window and fell to the ground.
The officer fired his weapon three more times at the fallen Smith, Williams said, striking him in the head and back.
“We want to know why he was shot in the head,” said Smith’s aunt, Andrina Hardy. “He was handcuffed.”
Officer David Jannot, a 10-year veteran of Savannah police, was placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation of the shooting by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Smith was the father of a toddler and had another child on the way, his mother said.
She said Smith had served time in prison for auto theft, but “he didn’t sell drugs and wasn’t a violent person.”
“You can see how liked he was,” said his mother, Penny Nelson. “Look at all these people. We want justice for my boy. You couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
Small, the reverend, said Smith’s shooting was part of a disturbing trend playing out across the nation.
“(More) of our black boys are being killed by police than were killed by the Klu Klux Klan by rope,” he said.