As public pressure mounts on the Jonesboro police department's investigation into the death of Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old who authorities say killed himself while handcuffed in the back of a squad car last month, new evidence in the case has been released that the department says supports its version of events.
Last night, the Jonesboro, Ark. police department released dashboard camera video, as well 911 audio recordings taken the night of the shooting and video and audio interviews with witnesses.
In the video of the traffic stop, Carter is shown stepping out of a pickup truck, and questioned before turning around and being handcuffed. He is led offscreen to the squad car, and can be heard giving the pronunciation of his name and spelling it for one of the officers. Two other men who were with Carter in the truck are also seen being questioned, handcuffed and then released several minutes later.
However the dashboard video, notably, doesn't show the moment when the gun goes off.
Although the investigation into Carter’s death is ongoing, the department issued a statement, saying it is “at a stage of the investigation where certain elements can be released without compromising the integrity of the remaining process.”
According to the statement, the department is still awaiting the complete autopsy report as well as complete forensics and toxicology results from the State Crime Lab.
The dashboard camera video was made publicly accessible just days after Jonesboro police released a re-enactment of Officer Baggett's version of the story. The police maintain that the officers patted Chavis down, but missed the small, .380-caliber handgun he had on his person.
Michael Yates, the police chief, called the shooting "bizarre," and said that the incident "defies logic at first glance."
He said that it's "very possible and quite easy" for a handcuffed person to raise a pistol to their head."
"It's obvious they did miss the weapon on the first search. It is likely, since he was placed into the car unhandcuffed the first time, that he had an opportunity to stash the weapon in the car," Yates said to the Associated Press. "The second search, which was more thorough and inclusive, did not disclose the weapon either."
Earlier this month, the FBI said it was conducting its own investigation into the incident.
WMC-TV in Memphis obtained copies of the personnel files of both officers who were at the scene during the shooting. According to the documents, Marsh had been commended on four occasions, formally awarded once, and received a complimentary letter from a citizen. But he also received two admonishments, a "letter of counseling" because he failed to follow police procedure by calling in traffic stops, and two formal reprimands. (According to WMC-TV, one of those reprimands followed a citizen's complaint that Marsh left "improper" notes on her vehicle. The two admonishments, the paper said, were due to "minor accidents in a patrol car.")
Baggett was admonished for breaking the department's rules on police pursuits and was praised by a citizen in a letter.
Both officers are currently on paid leave.
Civil rights groups in Arkansas have called for Yates's resignation. Prior to taking his position in Jonesboro, Yates had disputes with black leaders during his time as the police chief of Americus, Ga., and resigned after he sparked a furor by conducting an improper background check of one of the NAACP's leader there.
Carter's parents remain suspicious of the police account of the shooting. “They could have told me anything, that he died in a car wreck or anything else. I can go for that,” Charles Douglas, Carter's father, told the Huffington Post. “But suicide? I don’t believe it for one second.”
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