Thursday, April 13, 2023

Saudi Arai Lee (left) and former Savannah Police Officer Ernest Ferguson (right)

Credentials under review

Georgia’s police regulatory body is investigating the certification of a former Savannah Police Department officer who shot and killed a man last summer. 

Court records show the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the statewide group which vets, licenses and oversees police officers in Georgia, is investigating the certification of Ernest Ferguson after he pleaded guilty to felony theft in Florida. He was sentenced to 2 years of probation.

In a letter dated April 3, the POST investigator requested records of Ferguson’s warrant, indictment, accusation and court judgment in Clay County, Fla., as part of an investigation. 

But Ferguson, suspended after he shot a man in June 2022, was fired by Savannah Police last fall following a DUI arrest. Why did it take months for state regulators to look at his certification?

POST Deputy Director Chris Harvey tells The Current how soon his agency finds out and what it does depends on two factors: Was the crime a felony and did it happen in-state?

Savannah Police fired Ferguson in October after a DUI in Liberty County. The termination sparked an investigation by POST but because a DUI is a misdemeanor, it would not have resulted in an automatic suspension of his certification, according to Harvey. A felony crime, like the one Ferguson pleaded to on April 3, would warrant an immediate suspension. 

“We would need those documents before we can issue a suspension,” Harvey said. “Normally, we issue a suspension, that would generally be the next step.”

Harvey said the lag between the firing, arrest and investigation is probably because Ferguson was not working as a police officer when he allegedly committed the felony theft. Other state courts don’t have a duty to report to POST, and the agency typically learns of officer misconduct through the departments that employ them, which are required to report to POST, according to Harvey.

Daniel Defense homepage on April 12, 2023 Credit: Screenshot

Gunmaker fined for campaign contribution

After the mass shooting in a Texas elementary school last summer, heaps of scrutiny fell upon Bryan County’s gun manufacturer, Daniel Defense, which sold the rifle the teenager used to kill 19 children and two teachers.

That included a federal complaint filed by a Washington D.C., based organization, Campaign Legal Center, on June 9, 2022 accusing Daniel Defense of making an illegal campaign contribution of $100,000 to a gun rights super PAC. Organizations which have federal contracts are not allowed to make political contributions. Daniel Defense has been awarded two U.S. military contracts totaling $10 million, the complaint said.

On Feb. 2, the Federal Elections Commission signed off on an agreement finding the gunmaker violated election law and requiring the company pay $19,000 as a fine, according to documents. The super PAC, Gun Owners Action Fund, also returned the donation at the request of Daniel Defense.

“(Daniel Defense) was unaware that federal contractors were prohibited from making contributions, and that it relied on a ‘good faith expectation that [GOAF] was aware of any and all federal restriction as to the source of contributions it was soliciting,'” the filing stated.

Context: Black Creek-based Daniel Defense said the super PAC solicited them on Jan. 6, 2021. Former CEO Marty Daniel did so “to support and defend the Second Amendment of the Constitution … the very essence of the commercial business of Daniel,” the company’s lawyer wrote in a filing. Between Dec. 20, 2020 and Jan. 5, 2021, Gun Owners Action Fund spent $1.9 million supporting Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and opposing Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff for U.S. Senate races in Georgia.

A partial collapse of the third floor of the Savannah federal courthouse under construction resulted in three people injured, according to the Savannah Fire Department. Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current

Courthouse collapse

The third-floor collapse of the federal courthouse under renovation in downtown Savannah resulted in the injuries of three workers, according to the Savannah Fire Department.

The Current‘s photographer Justin Taylor sent a drone overhead after the collapse to survey the damage. Take a look.


One more thing

Tharros Place, a Savannah-based nonprofit helping survivors of human trafficking, is hosting a virtual “lunch and learn series” with Chatham County Juvenile Court to talk about the local problem of sex trafficking.

The sessions have focuses for specific audiences:

  • May 3: Tourism
  • May 10: Healthcare
  • May 17: Parents
  • May 24: General Public

Last year in Georgia, there were nearly 500 identified victims of human trafficking with an average age of 14 years old, according to Tharros Place. Chatham County ranks fourth in the state for sex trafficking cases involving minors.

“It takes all of us working together – across all industries – to put a stop to human trafficking, and education is the first step,” Executive Director Julie Wade said in a press release.

You can register for the sessions at this link.

Have a question, comment or story idea? Email me at

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...