Chief: Savannah police continue to investigate fatal shooting of Selmer man


The first week of July was marred by two shootings in three days in Savannah. A black man from Selmer died. A pregnant white woman from Savannah was shot five times and is clinging to life at a Memphis hospital.

Four people are charged in the shooting of the white woman. No one is charged with the killing of the black man.

Some say the reason is racism on the part of the Savannah Police Department. But the circumstances of the shootings differ significantly.

“These are two distinct cases,” said city Chief of Police Michael Pitts. “We’re moving as fast as the evidence will allow us.”

Authorities say Haley Lane Smith was shot multiple times on the night of July 4 while seated in a vehicle behind Dodge’s Store on Wayne Road. Although critically injured, she was able to speak to investigators. Security cameras at the store recorded the incident.

On July 2, 22-year-old Kelvin Zaccheus Welch was fatally injured at a Ryan Street residence. Police say Kentrell Siner, 19, is claiming he shot Welch in self defense as Welch was starting to come into his house. Three people drove Welch to Hardin Medical Center.

Smith “told us at the ER who shot her, versus Zach Welch who was unconscious at the ER,” Pitts said.

In the Welch case, “nobody’s talking. Nobody’s saying a word,” he said. In the Smith case, “everybody’s talking.”

According to Pitts, Welch’s death is “being actively worked every day.” But “without witnesses cooperating, we have to rely on scientific evidence, forensic evidence, DNA” and “that takes months, sometimes.”

He said Savannah police “will keep investigating until we feel we have an accurate picture of what happened... and it will be up to the grand jury to decide if a crime was committed or it was self defense.”

Siner is currently charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly giving the gun used in the shooting to a friend who removed it from the scene. He is also charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.