HARPER WOODS, Mich. (AP) — A mayor in suburban Detroit resigned Friday after he was accused of saying he understood why people become white supremacists.

Ken Poynter, who is white, has been under fire since making the remark in a private meeting with residents and Harper Woods officials. The small city has been targeted by protesters who want information about the June death of a Black woman who was in jail after a drug arrest.

“I love this city, its employees, and the many citizens I have met, so it is with regret that I resign my position as mayor and say ‘farewell,'” said Poynter, who was Harper Woods’ mayor since 1997.

During a recent meeting about civil unrest, Poynter said he understood “why white people would become white supremacists,” according to people who were present, including the local school superintendent and acting city manager. They said he later apologized.

“Unfortunately, recent comments made by former Mayor Poynter did not and do not reflect the values and beliefs of city administration, business leaders and residents of the city of Harper Woods,” said attorney John Gillooly, speaking for city government.

State police, meanwhile, are investigating the jail death of Priscilla Slater. Protesters in June had confronted Poynter, who responded by saying “outside agitators” had made a “really good peacefully integrated community look extremely bad.”