Fatal shooting presents another test for Savannah-Chatham police and other public officials

A West Savannah man was shot and killed on Thursday by an officer with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

Charles Smith, 29, had apparently been arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the rear of a squad car, but then allegedly kicked out a window, got his hands to the front of his body, and pulled a gun.

The Savannah Morning News has some excellent, detailed reporting about the incident and about the community response, which included street protests and allegations of racism.

The GBI was immediately called in, and I’m inclined to give high marks to officials who went to the scene and tried to keep things calm throughout the day. Mayor Edna Jackson later released a statement that seemed to hit a lot of the right notes.

An autopsy is being performed today, so let’s hope detailed, unambiguous accounts of the incident provide some clarity.

This incident comes at a tricky time for Savannah officials. Federal charges against former police chief Willie Lovett are still making news (and will be for awhile), the city of Savannah and Chatham County continue to argue over the terms of the 2003 police merger, and the public just learned the names of the three out-of-town finalists for the position of permanent chief.

Police officials are also important players in the city’s proposed alcohol ordinance revision, elements of which have many Savannahians up in arms.