Crime

Police sergeant charged in medic’s death had to be handcuffed at her home last year, records show

Who is Sgt. William Leonard Talley?

Sgt. William Leonard Talley, 51, has been with the Columbus Police Department since 2002. He was charged with murder in the death of Kelly Levinsohn, found shot to death in her home on May 11, 2019, in her home off of Pratt Avenue.
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Sgt. William Leonard Talley, 51, has been with the Columbus Police Department since 2002. He was charged with murder in the death of Kelly Levinsohn, found shot to death in her home on May 11, 2019, in her home off of Pratt Avenue.

More than a year before police Sgt. William “Bill” Talley III allegedly killed a Columbus paramedic in her home, he was handcuffed by fellow officers at her house.

Columbus police disciplinary records obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer show Talley was at the 5829 Pratt Ave. home of Kelly Levinsohn on March 11, 2018, around 7:41 p.m.

It’s unclear why police were called there, but the records state Talley had “used alcohol off duty” to the point where he was “unfit for duty at a given time.”

“Talley had to be placed in handcuffs due to a brief struggle while officers attempted to calm him down and speak with him about his personal issues,” the report said. The incident required the attention of two on-duty supervisors, and Levinsohn’s name was not mentioned in the disciplinary document.

Talley served a one-day suspension in September 2018 for his role in the March incident. It was his first disciplinary action in 10 years. He was not arrested.

The suspension was one of few actions taken against Talley since being hired by the department in July 2002, according to personnel files obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer.

Talley now is in Muscogee County jail awaiting a preliminary hearing in Recorders Court. He is charged with murder, using a gun to commit a crime and violating his oath.

He was transported to the jail Thursday after being released from Piedmont Columbus Regional hospital. Talley was admitted there after Levinsohn’s May 11 death, and treated for injuries suffered when he wrecked her truck that night off Exit 30 of Interstate 185 in Harris County.

Her shooting death, police said, was believed to be a domestic situation.

Run-ins with the law

These are not Talley’s first criminal charges.

He was charged with trespassing, attempting to elude, and hit and run in January 1992 in Richmond, Virginia. A report from his preliminary interview at the Columbus police department, which is not signed, states Talley initially also was charged with burglary in the case, but the charge later was reduced to criminal trespass.

Talley completed community service, and the charge was eventually dismissed, according to the report.

His police job application says Talley graduated high school in Richmond, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1993. He entered the U.S. Army in October 1993 and was stationed at Fort Benning. He served in the 75th Ranger Regiment until he was honorably discharged in March 1998.

In the Army he served as a gunner, battalion assistant and training non-commissioned officer. Talley’s job application also states he was trained at the U.S. Army Sniper School and got a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Columbus State University in December 1998.

He served as a scout in the Georgia National Guard from March 1999 to April 2001.

Talley’s job history includes working as a programmer analyst at Total Systems Services in Columbus from September 1998 to July 2000. Talley also said he worked purchasing and selling NASDAQ stocks for New York company Broadway Trading from July 2000 to the time he applied at the police department.

Few disciplinary issues

Aside from the confrontation with fellow officers at Levinsohn’s home in 2018, Talley had only minor disciplinary actions recorded in his personnel file since being hired as a patrol officer in 2002.

These are the issues listed:

On Feb. 10, 2006, “Officer Talley failed to write a report and log in found property that was given to him by an unknown citizen. He released the property to a civilian employee who is not authorized to maintain evidence/found property,” a disciplinary notice states. He was suspended for one day without pay on March 15, 2006.

On July 11, 2008, “Cpl. Talley was notified and failed to attend Recorder’s Court in the case … which he obtained a warrant on for criminal trespass.” He was suspended for one day without pay on July 26, 2008.

Also on that record, supervisors noted also “Cpl. Talley received a letter of counsel on March 31, 2008, for neglect or dereliction of duty,” but did not include any details.

In 2010, supervisors wrote that “Sergeant Talley received a letter of reprimand for failure to maintain minimum department standards” on Dec. 2, 2010. “This incident involved an error in counting money during the arrest of a suspect,” they added.

Otherwise, Talley received glowing performance reviews that consistently said he exceeded department standards. Supervisors praised his work ethic and initiative, and noted his skill as a marksman.

“Officer Talley is performing very well and is a definite asset to his squad and the department,” read his 2006 evaluation. “He is very tenacious in the performance of his duties and I believe he should be considered for detective training.”

Talley was promoted to police technician in September 2006, and became a sergeant on Nov. 21, 2009. He transferred to the detective division, called the Bureau of Investigative Services, on Aug. 1, 2015, but went back to patrol the next year, on April 30, 2016.

In his evaluation in 2014 and again in 2017, supervisors recommended Talley try out for lieutenant, complimenting him on his initiative.

“During this rating period, Sergeant Talley took the initiative and conducted training on the new Georgia gun laws for morning watch,” said his 2014 review. “The training included information packets that were researched and put together by him. He also takes the initiative to familiarize himself with legal updates and case laws to enable his subordinates and other supervisors to have a better understanding of them.”

The only indication of the trouble to come was the 2018 incident at Levinsohn’s home, where other officers said Talley was drunk and had to be handcuffed as they talked to him.

Police have so far refused to release the police report on that case.

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