The official story of Ricky Boyd’s fatal encounter with law enforcement officers changed, then changed again.
Savannah’s interim police chief, Mark Revenew, initially said that Mr. Boyd, a murder suspect, had fired on officers while they were trying to arrest him in front of his home in a workaday suburb far from the fountains and oak-shaded squares of the city’s historic core.
Hours later, the police released a statement that did not mention Mr. Boyd doing any shooting, though it did say that he “confronted officers with a gun.” Then the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stated that Mr. Boyd had been armed with a BB pistol.
Now the family is insisting that Mr. Boyd, 20, an African-American restaurant worker, was not armed at all. Their lawyer has accused the police of lying, and he claims that a photo taken by a neighbor just after the January shooting shows the BB pistol on the ground, a puzzling 43 feet from where Mr. Boyd fell.
On Thursday, Mr. Boyd’s mother, Jameillah Smiley, went before the Savannah City Council and asked the city to release a police body-camera video that she says shows that her son was unarmed. State Senator Lester G. Jackson III, the head of Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus, has sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the Justice Department to take over the investigation from local authorities to “help avoid potential bias.”
And Savannah — the elegant, troubled jewel of the Georgia coast — found itself confronting, yet again, the question of whether its police force can be trusted.
The question has dominated the public conversation in many American cities at a time when technology can make the most obscure police encounter combustible. But it comes at a particularly sensitive moment for Savannah — a city of 147,000 people famous for its fine old buildings and Southern charm, but burdened with an outsize violent crime problem, a 25 percent poverty rate, and a police force stained by the 2014 conviction of its former chief, Willie Lovett, on federal extortion, gambling and obstruction charges.
Mr. Lovett’s well-regarded replacement, Joseph Lumpkin, reinstilled some public confidence in the police force. But Mr. Lumpkin moved to a new job in January, and the city is on a nationwide hunt for a new police chief.
Alicia Blakely, an activist with the Savannah chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said that if evidence of a cover-up emerges in the Boyd case, “just imagine — if that happened, that means the trust is completely out of the window.”
Savannah has long been a city starkly divided between rich and poor, black and white. Its growing success as a magnet for tourists, wealthy retirees and film and television productions has thrown its pervasive problems into even sharper relief.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Richard Fausset