Harper Woods director of public safety addresses death of 38-year-old woman inside holding cell

Priscilla Slater dies in police custody

Community demands answers after woman dies in custody of Harper Woods Police Department

HARPER WOODS, Mich. – The Harper Woods director of public safety spoke to the Local 4 Defenders about the death of Priscilla Slater, a 38-year-old woman who was found unresponsive last week in a holding cell.

Six employees were put on administrative leave after the discovery.

Slater was arrested Tuesday in connection with a shooting incident in the parking lot of the Parkcrest Inn, authorities said. On Wednesday, she was found dead.

READ: Protest held after 38-year-old woman dies in holding cell in Harper Woods

Since Slater’s death, Michigan State Police officials have stepped in to investigate what happened at the Harper Woods Police Department.

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley spoke with Vincent Smith, the Harper Woods director of public safety, about the case.

“I think the key questions is: Why did you suspend these six employees?” Shawn asked.

“It is procedural right now,” Smith said. “The investigation is going on with state police. These six were on duty when Ms. Slater was found unresponsive. It is procedural to cooperate with the MSP investigation.”

“Did they do something wrong?” Shawn asked.

“I cannot comment on that right now.” Smith said.

Six department employees -- four civilians and two supervisors -- were in charge of personally checking on Slater after her arrest, officials said.

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“They are monitored every half hour," Smith said.

“Did this happen in this case?” Shawn asked.

“As far as I know,” Smith said. “I cannot divulge any more because of the investigation.”

Smith said it seemed as if Slater was sleeping in her cell. But the question is whether she was motionless for a long period of time.

“When you looked at the video -- anything unusual?” Shawn asked.

“I did not look at it,” Smith said. “The investigation was launched within an hour.”

Slater was arrested along with Lewis Nichols, who is charged with 20 felonies and accused of firing shots at the motel last week.

Smith said Slater’s in-custody death upset him so much he called her family personally to notify them.

“What’s your message to the family?” Shawn asked.

“I’m sincerely sorry,” Smith said.

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.