Ga. police hold memorial service for LEO fatally shot during investigation
Hundreds of police, city leaders and members of the public who crowded sidewalks on Monday morning for the officer's memorial service
Savannah Morning News, Ga.
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Savannah police Central Precinct Lt. Gregory Mitchell had just left work Saturday night when he got the call.
Two of his coworkers had been shot: Sgt. Kelvin Ansari and officer Douglas Thomas. The two were responding to an armed robbery in the Starland District, when the suspect, Edward Fuller III, opened fire.
He and Ansari were joking around earlier -- Ansari's shift was just beginning as Mitchell's was ending.
"I just didn't know that would be the last time we would see each other," Mitchell said.
Mitchell was tasked with telling Ansari's wife, Charlotte, that her husband had been shot. He drove her to Memorial Health University Medical Center, where lifesaving measures were being taken to keep him alive, according to a GBI release.
Ansari died from his injuries.
Mitchell was among a group of hundreds of police, city leaders and members of the public who crowded the sidewalk of Oglethorpe Street on Monday morning for Ansari's memorial service.
Officers comforted each other as a long line of people took turns leaving flowers on the hood of a police car draped in black ribbons. Photos of Ansari were placed on the windows of the vehicle.
Thomas was there with them.
Chaplain Charles Roberson opened the ceremony with a prayer.
"We know that there is no greater love than this, than a man that would lay down his life for a friend," Roberson said. "Today we honor the life of this great police officer, who laid his life down for this community."
'We're trying to maintain'
Mitchell worked closely with Ansari and said he enjoyed being around him.
"We had a good time. We had a couple of jokes, we liked to have fun," Mitchell said. "He was a fun-loving guy.
In the days following Ansari's death, Mitchell said the precinct has been weighed down by sadness and loss.
"It's almost unbelievable," Mitchell said. "We're trying to maintain because we still have a job to do. We still have to focus. We still have citizens that we serve. Our hearts are grieving. Our hearts are heavy."
Central Precinct officers know the pain of losing an officer all too well. In May 2018, officer Anthony Christie was killed in the line of duty after his patrol car was struck by a tractor trailer.
"It's going to be difficult. We had tragedy last year around this time. So now, experiencing that same loss again, suddenly, violently -- we'll persevere," Mitchell said. "It's a healing process. I don't know how long it will take, but we will persevere. He'll never be forgotten, but we'll get through this as a family."
Sgt. Dana Purvis, Savannah police's special events coordinator, said she and Ansari worked together on a number of occasions. She said he was always ready to lend a hand during events.
"I always looked forward to working with him when working together in special events," Purvis said. "I couldn't have asked for a better person to lead the officers. I never had to worry, ever, because I knew him and my other supervisors were there by my side, making sure everything ran smoothly."
She recalled a year where Ansari went out of his way to pick up Christmas presents for a police event for children.
"We said we needed some gifts for some kids, and he went out of his way to go get them," Purvis said. "I remember that more so than anything else. He was so kind-hearted."
Purvis said she was at home when she first heard about Ansari's death.
"I thank God I was home, because I don't think I could've endured being out there at the time."
Ansari's death has been a heartbreaking experience, but Purvis said her pain is mitigated through the support of her family and fellow officers.
Tragedies bring people together, she said.
"It's up and down. It comes in waves," Purvis said. "I have a support system at home, and it helps being around my coworkers. My family, too. We look out for each other."
Earlier Monday morning, a police processional transported Ansari's body from Memorial Health University Medical Center to the GBI crime lab.
The GBI is investigating the incident. A Sunday release said an unidentified officer shot and killed Fuller after pursuing him through the area surrounding the crime scene.
Funeral arrangements for Ansari have not been announced, but police spokeswoman Keturah Greene said the public would be welcome at the service.
Mitchell said Ansari's sacrifice is one every officer is willing to make.
"Anyone that wears this uniform assumes that responsibility," Mitchell said. "Sgt. Ansari rushed into danger, like all police officers do. Shots ring out, someone's hurt, someone's in harm's way -- our role is to help, to be the peacekeepers, the guardians, and Sgt. Kelvin Ansari epitomized that. He was a peacekeeper, a guardian, he was brave."
©2019 Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Ga.)