Meg Heap

 Avoiding the escalation of racial tensions in Savannah during the prosecution of the controversial police-related shooting death of Charles Smith was District Attorney Meg Heap’s top priority last fall. The tough D.A.’s actions helped prevent riots in Savannah akin to those that took place in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer. 

With all the violent public reactions and racial tension surrounding the shooting deaths of black men by white police officers recently in America, how did Savannah avoid violence as events unfolded in last fall’s police-related shooting death of Charles Smith? Maybe it’s because, for the first time in a very long time, the Savannah Metropolitan Police Department has an open working relationship with the District Attorney.

D.A. Meg Daly Heap experienced a supreme test of her leadership skills during the investigation of the police officer-related shooting. On September 18, 2014, Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department Officer David Jannot, a white man with ten years of service, shot Charles Smith, a 28-year-old black man. How Heap has flown under the national-press radar and Savannah has remained relatively violence-free since two grand juries found Jannot’s actions justified, is curious. Her strategy was straightforward—she took the unusual step of petitioning two grand jury hearings to allow examination of additional evidence that might not have been admissible in only one criminal hearing (allowing extra time for witnesses to come forward), and the recorded eyewitness statements were shared with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Smith’s family, a move that achieved a high level of transparency in the case.

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