(August 22, 2012) LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The girlfriend of a man who was fatally shot in the back of an Arkansas patrol car told an investigator that he called her from the car and said he had a gun with him, police said Wednesday.
Jonesboro police released a four-page statement to the media that it said briefly described its investigation to date into the July 28 death of 21-year-old Chavis Carter. The death was ruled a suicide in an autopsy report released earlier this week.
Carter’s girlfriend also told the investigator that Carter told her he loved her and that he was scared, according to the statement, which did not identify the woman.
Phone records showed Carter made two calls, at least one of which was from the back of the patrol car, police said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Lyle Waterworth said the department is still investigating Carter’s death. Waterworth said evidence and witness statements support the medical examiner’s conclusion that Carter killed himself.
Police have been facing criticism after they said officers searched Carter twice but didn’t find a gun before he was fatally shot in a patrol car.
The Arkansas state crime lab on Wednesday confirmed that it didn’t perform gunshot residue testing on Carter, saying it doesn’t do that kind of analysis on victims of homicides or suicides.
Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates told The Associated Press that the department had requested gunshot residue testing in Carter’s case, but he said the state crime lab doesn’t do that type of testing.
The lab’s chief criminalist, Lisa Channell, told the AP that the testing can indicate whether a person was in an environment with gunshot residue, but “it cannot tell you whether the person pulled the trigger or not.”
“Obviously if a deceased individual has a gunshot wound to their body, they were in a gunshot residue environment,” Channell said. “We can tell you that without doing the test.”
The crime lab’s policy is not new. A 2001 memo sent to law enforcement officers said being in close proximity to a gun when it’s fired can lead to positive gunshot residue test results and that negative gunshot residue results don’t mean someone didn’t fire a gun.
Still, Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis, Tenn., lawyer representing Carter’s family questioned why the test wasn’t conducted.
“To me, that’s horrible,” he said.
Irwin didn’t immediately respond to a phone message left after the police released their latest statement Wednesday afternoon.
The crime lab did conduct toxicology tests on Carter and found that meth and other drugs were in his system.
Police have released video recorded from dashboard cameras the night of the shooting, but the footage doesn’t appear to show when officers found Carter slumped over and bleeding in the backseat of a patrol car as described in a police report.
Jonesboro police also released a reconstruction video, but that hasn’t convinced everyone either.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Carter’s lawyers and mother Wednesday and called on the Justice Department to investigate Carter’s case.
“We are convinced the explanations given so far are not credible ones,” Jackson said.