HARPER WOODS, Mich. – A key witness in the case of Priscilla Slater’s death described her involvement in a shooting incident before the 38-year-old was found dead in a Harper Woods holding cell.
The man told the Local 4 Defenders he saw why Harper Woods police had contact with Slater at the Parkcrest Motel last week.
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He said Slater was treated roughly by the man she was with, but not by officers.
“She couldn’t even stand up by herself before the police even came,” he said.
The Defenders are protecting the witness’ identity for his own safety. He’s a key witness in the case.
He told Local 4 that he watched Slater and Lewis Nichols return to the Parkcrest Motel last Wednesday. He said Nichols suddenly opened fire at the motel.
“He started shooting -- ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,'” the witness said.
Officials said 19 shots were fired, some into a room with a mother and baby inside.
In a frantic effort to get away, Nichols pushed Slater to the ground and she couldn’t get up, according to the witness.
“He knocked her to the ground and she was there, barely could get up,” he said. “He was trying to drag her, saying, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go.’”
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Harper Woods police officers arrived and eventually found Nichols and Slater asleep in a vehicle, authorities said.
The witness told Local 4 both were arrested without incident.
But 11 and a half hours later, Slater was found unresponsive in a holding cell at the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety.
Six employees in charge of checking on her have been suspended. Did they follow proper procedures in evaluating Slater’s condition and check on her every 30 minutes? Those questions are still under investigation.
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The witness said he knows the first contact with police at the motel was by the book.
“I know for a fact that wasn’t the police’s fault,” he said.
The cause of death and toxicology reports aren’t back yet, and those will tell part of the story. The other part is whether staff members noticed her or did anything to help. Michigan State Police troopers are investigating.