Savannah Police veterans fired, face criminal charges
Two veteran Savannah Police officers have been fired and now will face a grand jury for possible criminal charges stemming from a case of mistaken identity in April that reportedly turned violent.
Upon viewing bodycam footage of the incident, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said Wednesday afternoon that "I was sufficiently concerned to the point that I decided to immediately schedule a grand jury" to look into a possible criminal indictment of the officers.
Sgt. Octavio "Mike" Arango, a 15-year veteran of the force, sustained a total of seven Savannah Police Department violations, including use of force violations and violations of policy on use of body-worn cameras.
Corporal Daniel Kang, an 8-year veteran of SPD, is accused of three departmental violations.
They face a grand jury on Sept. 14, Heap said, to determine whether criminal charges will move forward.
"If you look around this country, people are demanding justice. The best way I can guarantee justice is to get this in front of a grand jury."
"During this investigation, two members of the squad reportedly violated several policies," and were immediately placed on leave, Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said.
Minter says he quickly decided to move forward with firing the officers.
"My decision was appealed to the city manager who upheld my decision," Minter said.
The officers were formally terminated on July 30.
Sgt. Arango and Cpl. Kang lead a team that had a warrant for a violent offender's arrest. They responded to a Southside apartment complex on Abercorn Street seeking the offender.
The incident reportedly got out of control when they mistakenly detained a man who wasn't the alleged perpetrator.
"I believe that the conduct of two members of SPD during this particular incident was totally unacceptable and egregious behavior," Chief Minter said.
"I do not believe their behavior in this incident is in line with our core values in this department... I do not believe this behavior is what we expect of Savannah Police officers," Minter said.
Mayor Van Johnson said, "If you want to change culture you have to do things differently. I you want to do things differently, you have to do things intentionally."
"I was horrified," Johnson said of viewing the incident footage. "I felt personally that was absolutely inappropriate. The chief's actions were absolutely appropriate. I agree with the recommendation" to charge the officers, he said.
The bodycam footage is by law not required to be released during an active investigation, and was not displayed at the press conference Wednesday afternoon.