Savannah, Ga., clergy allege overpolicing, poor training after officers kill licensed gun owner 

Saudi Arai Lee, slain Friday, was from Carver Village, a largely Black neighborhood in Savannah whose residents say they are often targeted by police.

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Members of the clergy in Savannah, Georgia, are calling for a federal investigation into their city’s police department days after a Black man was shot and killed. 

Saudi Arai Lee, 31, was from Carver Village, a largely African American neighborhood that residents say is overpoliced, according to the Savannah Morning News

Elder James Johnson (center) talks about the shooting death of Saudi Arai Lee during a press conference Wednesday in Carver Village. Lee was killed by a Savannah police officer on Friday. (Photo: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News/USA TODAY NETWORK)

“I don’t know if it’s the training or the fear of a Black man, but seems like they shoot and ask questions later, and we cannot and will not tolerate this,” Elder James Johnson said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Historic Carver Village Community Center. He and other assembled clergy members and area residents called for Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter to step down.

Questions remain about how Lee was shot and killed Friday, however, he showed officers his weapons permit and his holster with his weapon, says the Morning News report. Somehow, a chase ensued, and Lee was slain. 

His killing marks the fifth officer-involved death in Savannah this year. 

“This man had a legal concealed weapons permit and still was shot down,” Johnson maintained. “It should never be a death sentence (for) a Black man for carrying a weapon.”

Savannah Officer Ernest Ferguson — who’s now on administrative leave from the department — encountered Lee just before noon on Friday. In a news release, a representative from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said, “Lee lifted his shirt and pulled a weapon from a holster. A short chase ensued, and Lee was shot by an officer.” Further details have not been disclosed. 

Onlookers reportedly rushed to help Lee and urged officers to provide medical care. Despite being given aid at the scene, Lee was pronounced dead at Memorial University Medical Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Members of the Carver Village community say they have been repeatedly targeted by police officers.

“I have sons and I have grandsons … it could have very well been myself because I’m a licensed carrier,” said Felicia Walker, a member of the community calling on Mayor Van Johnson to hold police accountable. “Enough is enough.”

Lee’s shooting comes as more states are making it legal for gun owners to carry their weapons in public. Most recently, the Supreme Court struck down gun restrictions in New York. But what is a victory for some may not be a victory for all, as African Americans remain more likely to be persecuted or subjected to harm by police officers, despite the legal status. 

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