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Harper Woods mayor's wife accused of ripping up signs as woman's family demands answers in her death

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Posted at 5:19 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 18:47:44-04

HARPER WOODS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Tensions rise in Harper Woods, as the Mayor’s wife is expected to apologize and light is shed on the investigation into the death of a woman in police custody.

Family of 38-year-old Priscilla Slater is demanding answers 5 days after police say she was found unresponsive in a holding cell.

The Harper Woods director of Public Safety Vincent Smith says they have a bullpen which holds up to four people and holding cells for up to 2 people each, he says Priscilla Slater was in a cell by herself.

During that stretch of time, 4 civilian aids and 2 supervisors were on duty. Smith says the aid’s job is to check on people in the cells and report to their supervisor. All six have been put on administrative leave to be available for the Michigan State Police investigation.

After the mayor’s wife was accused of tearing up signs at the demonstration at city hall Friday, family members of Priscilla Slater and community activists marched and chanted on the Mayor’s front lawn, covering it in more signs.

“Everyone’s upset, there were a lot of emotions, it was a very tense situation and the mayor's wife committed the only act of violence in the whole demonstration,” says Minister Freedom Allah, the national representative for The People’s Action referring to Friday’s demonstration.

On Sunday they continued to march and chant, hoping to help get the family some answers.

“We still haven’t seen any trace of the video,” says Allah.

“Show us what happened on the inside, give this family closure! They deserve it,” says Allah.

In more than 20 years working in Harper Woods, the Director of Public Safety Vincent Smith says no one has died in the holding cells, until now.

“The family wants answers and they deserve answers. We agree 100 percent! This is why we contacted state police, they swiftly responded, we take this seriously,” says Smith.

But bad weather and power outages caused delays initially.

“That same evening storms came through and we lost power in the city for two days. It kind of hampered the investigation as far as getting video to the state police, but they have it all now,” says Smith.

“Obviously a woman that’s in a holding cell is under someone else’s supervision, someone should be accountable,” says Allah.

“Where is the log? Who was responsible for making sure she was OK?” says Allah.

Smith says he wants Priscilla Slater’s family to have answers and justice, which is why he called the Michigan State Police to investigate.

“A thorough investigation requires time, they are being thorough to provide the answers that the family deserves,” says Smith.

The Mayor’s wife is expected to issue an apology Monday at 6pm.