Officer-related shooting occurs in West Savannah

By Destiny Marira, Staff Writer

On September 18, 29-year-old Charles Smith was killed in an officer-related shooting in West Savannah while under arrest.

Early Thursday afternoon, Smith was arrested due to having many outstanding warrants.  According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Smith was placed in the back of a police car with his hands handcuffed behind his back. He maneuvered his hands to the front of his body and kicked through a back window of the patrol car. Officers noted Smith had a gun on him.

As he was trying to get out of the car, police officer David Jannot, a 10-year veteran of the department, shot him. During an investigation at the scene of the crime, a firearm was found under his body. The GBI, an outside agency, has been brought in to investigate the incident. Officer Jannot was placed on paid administrative pending the outcome of the investigation.

After the shooting, a crowd gathered around the scene. People in the community were angry about what happened and wanted answers. A few members of the metro police command staff arrived at the scene. Mayor Edna Jackson, Alderman Van Johnson and City Manager Stephanie Cutter also came to the scene.

Mayor Jackson and Interim Police Chief Julie Tolbert addressed the crowd, letting them know they would do everything they could and let the community to know what they’ve found as information on the case comes together. Jackson and Tolbert assured the crowd they would keep Smith’s family and the community updated on what’s happening.

In a statement from Mayor Jackson concerning the shooting, she said, “I am distressed at today’s shooting in West Savannah that left one man dead, a family grieving, and a community with many questions. I share many of those questions. There will be answers, but for the moment I ask for patience…I met today with the victim’s family, and I grieved with them. I spoke with West Savannah residents, and I listened to them. I talked with Police leaders, and relayed our citizens’ concerns while offering support for our officers and the difficult public service they perform every day. When the answers come, we will be open, transparent and forthcoming. We will remain in continuous communication with the family. For now, I hope the citizens of Savannah will join me in remaining calm and patient as authorities gather the facts.”

Hundreds gathered at Eagle Street and Augusta Avenue throughout the day to march and protest peacefully. Peaceful rallies occurred throughout the weekend. On Thursday night, Charles Smith’s family gathered at a rally. Smith had a five-month-old daughter and another child on the way. His family described him as a caring brother and devoted father, and that he was getting his life together.

On Sept. 19, community members and civil rights organizations continued to support Smith’s family. The Savannah Chapter of the National Action Network spoke about the need for getting answers and the truth about what happened. Community members held a peaceful demonstration at 6 p.m. to pray and ask for justice.

Francys Johnshon, president of the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, commented on the situation saying, “Something happened here on [Thursday]…we won’t stop in our investigation until we determined exactly what it was. And so the NAACP stands proudly with this family and we will stand throughout this circumstance and we will stand with Savannah. The people deserve answers and we will pray that they will receive them.”

The city is promising a complete and impartial review of the shooting by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. According to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the GBI will continue to thoroughly investigate this incident to determine exactly what occurred. When the investigation is completed, the findings will be turned over to the Eastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.