The Jonesboro, Ark. Police Department has released a video reenactment of what they believed happened the night Chavis Carter was killed while sitting handcuffed in the back of a squad car.
Arkansas authorities investigating the death said that the 21-year-old shot himself after he was detained on July 29. Searches of the suspect yielded a small amount of marijuana but no weapon.
Still, officers say a little while after he was placed in the back of the squad car, they heard a sound and smelled smoke. And, on investigation, they found Carter slumped and bloodied with his hands still secured behind his back, and a small caliber handgun and spent cartridge on the seat beside him.
In the clip, an officer with height and size similar to Carter’s, is seen manipulating his handcuffed hands and body before raising a toy gun to his head.
“The circumstances displayed are not intended to illustrate the only means by which an individual could injure themselves but merely to determine the feasibility of these actions,” the video states. “The investigation is active and awaits forensic and other investigative material that will be used to complete a full inquiry into this matter.”
The re-enactment tape release coincided with the release by Jonesboro authorities of tapes, under a public records request from the Associated Press and other news organizations, from a police car taken the night of the arrest.
Those police car tapes, according to an Aug. 17 AP dispatch, don’t show whether Chavis shot himself. According to the AP, on those tapes one police video appears to end before the officers found Carter in the car and another seems to begin after the shooting.
On the tape released Aug. 17, a man can be heard saying, “He was breathing a second ago,” on the video released by Jonesboro police.
The FBI has launched its own investigation into the matter. And the officers involved, Keith Baggett and Ron Marsh, remain on paid leave.
The fatal shooting of the Southhaven, Miss., man has prompted outrage. His mother, Teresa Carter has accused the police of killing her son. Not only was he not suicidal, she alleges, but Carter, who was left-handed, could not possibly shoot himself in his right temple.
“It’s definitely bizarre and it defies logic at first glance,” Police Chief Michael Yates said in a Headline News interview right after the shooting. But police have witnessed handcuffed suspects doing equally “bizarre” things and all the evidence supports the official stance.
“There’s no indication of any projectiles coming from outside the vehicle. We’ve reviewed the dashcam video and as late as today managed to have some witnesses come forward that observed the incident from start to finish. And their statements tend to support that whatever transpired in the back of that police car transpired in the back with the officers in a different location,” he added.
The police-released video attempts to buttress that claim. First posted by KAIT 8 on Aug. 14, the video begins with a JPD message that the clip is a “non-evidentiary reproduction of facts and circumstances associated with the pending investigation of the Chavis Carter in-custody death.”
The video’s “sole purpose,” the message continues, “was to investigate the possibility that an individual, hand-cuffed behind his back, may or may not have the ability to use a concealed firearm in a manner that would give rise to his or her death.”
Meanwhile, some members of the community are calling for Yates’ resignation due to his handling of the investigation.
On Aug. 14 the Arkansas Chapter of the Commission on Religion and Racism (CORR) picketed before the Jonesboro City Hall and Police Department, decrying officials’ characterization of Carter’s death as a suicide and calling for the chief to step down.
“We are not going to accept this lie that the City Council, Mayor, Police Chief, Police Department are trying to put out,” said CORR national director Dr. Isaac Richmond as quoted in a KAIT 8 article. “It is impossible. We have tried it on numerous of us. We have tried it, and it cannot be done.”