A week after he was involved in hit and run that injured a city worker, many questions still remain about how Savannah-Chatham Metro Police handled the accident and the driver, Chatham County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz.
It was last Monday when Shabazz was driving on Holland drive near White Bluff road when he allegedly ignored requests to stop at a construction zone, drove in the wrong lane, and hit the flag in the hand of a city worker trying to tell him to stop.
Shabazz then left the scene, only after telling another worker “Tell the cop I am Commissioner Shabazz” as he drove away
Four days later, on Friday, only after the Savannah city worker said she wanted to press charges, was Shabazz officially cited for leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving and driving in the wrong lane.
Monday, when asked if the Commissioner was given any special treatment, SCMPD gave News 3 this statement:
“Mr Shabazz was treated exactly the way any other citizen was treated. He left the scene before police arrived and he engaged his lawyer to address the citations. he has this right. Few people are jailed on misdemeanor charges”.
WSAV Crime Expert refutes that statement.
“That is not a correct statement.The correct statement is that we don’t always arrest for traffic citations,” explained Former SCMPD Major Gerry Long.
And the statistics back up what Gerry Long said.
News 3 did some digging and in the last 72 hours, 66 people were booked into the Chatham County Jail on misdemeanor charges.
35 of those were arrested and booked by Savannah-Chatham Metro Officers.
“Officers have discretion when dealing with misdemeanor offenses as to how they handle that effectively. An arrest is not always the best way to handle a situation,” said Gerry Long.
Long said in this case the officers did handle it well.
Without a major injury, most folks would have been allowed to leave the scene and cited later.
But she does have a problem with something else the department did.
“There is no signature on that citation, it was given to the attorney,” said Long.
She says giving the citations directly to Shabazz’s attorney and not having Shabazz sign them himself, could lead to problems.
“He hasn’t acknowledged receipt of the citation. He hasn’t acknowledged that he in fact understands that this is an accusation,” said Long.
And the way he acted at the scene leaves long with questions about what he expects to happen next.
“Who he is has nothing to do with the fact he is driving a non-emergency transport vehicle and i was involved in a traffic citation. He could have said I am Yusuf Shabazz, I am Mr Shabazz and here is my information and telephone number.”
“One of the responsibilities as a driver is to remain at the scene and he chose not to do that. Leaving your name is not sufficient.”
Long told me who the person is should never have an affect on whether an arrest is made if a crime is committed.
The County Commission has had no comment, they didn’t have anything to say about the charges, or Mr Shabazz. Leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, reckless driving and driving on the side of the road, all misdemeanors, all against Chatham County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz.
And if you are wondering how we know he was the driver involved?
He told the crew who he was after allegedly committing the crime.
According to the police report obtained by News 3, it all started Monday morning June 1 in a construction zone along Holland road near White Bluff road.
About 9:30 am, a transportation van approached a construction zone the driver, later identified as Yusuf Shabazz, was told he had to wait while they loaded a machine.
He stated he needed to pick up a client and continued to drive, even though the worker screamed for him to “stop”.
Even though there was a worker with a flag directing traffic the van ignored the warning, didn’t stop, swerved into the wrong lane and hit the flag in the hand of the worker directing traffic.
After the accident the van kept going, stopping only long enough for the driver to tell another worker “You tell that cop that i am Commissioner Shabazz”, and then drove away.
Shabazz was not charged at the scene or even that day, but four days later. Only after the worker holding the flag, who was not badly hurt, said she wanted to press charges.
News 3 attempted to call Commissioner Shabazz, but got no response.
We also went by the address given for the SLM transport service, which is owned by the Shabazz family, but got no answer.
News 3 also did some digging and found out this is not his first run in with the law, Shabazz, under his previous name, Lorenzo Jackson, was arrested six times, on various charges.
We asked Savannah-Chatham Metro Police the question we all had, why wasn’t he arrested at the scene or at least stopped?
Their response: “Mr Shabazz was treated exactly the way any other citizen would have been treated. He left the scene before police arrived and he engaged his lawyer to address the citations. he has this right.”
Police also said all the citations were misdemeanors – and few people are jailed for misdemeanor charges.
When i asked the County Commission for comment, they didn’t have anything to say about the charges, or mr Shabazz.