Chavis Carter was shot in the right temple while handcuffed in the back of a squad car. Now two Jonesboro, Ark. police officers are on leave while investigators try to figure out just what happened Saturday night.
Carter, 21, was a passenger in a pickup truck pulled over by Officer Keith Baggett. Baggett said another police officer, Ron Marsh, found “some marijuana,” as well as new plastic baggies. Carter, who was African American, had an outstanding warrant in Mississippi, so police arrested him, searched him, and handcuffed him behind his back.
Baggett said that Carter was “placed [...] into handcuffs, searched [...] a second time then placed [...] into the back seat of the patrol unit.” According to Baggett, he and Marsh walked over to the other squad car on the scene, when they heard “a loud thump with a metallic sound.” The two officers did not react to the noise, because, according to Baggett, they thought the sound came from the road. They questioned and then released the other men who were in the pickup.
According to Baggett, he was about to leave when Marsh got his attention, telling him that Carter had shot himself.
The officers said that Carter was in a “sitting position slumped forward with his head in his lap.” He was taken to St. Bernards Regional Medical Center, where he died of his wounds.
While the police officers maintain that Carter must have shot himself with a gun missed in the search, Carter’s family has expressed strong doubts about the veracity of the police account.
“I think they killed him, my son wasn’t suicidal,” said Carter’s mother, Teresa, according to ThinkProgress.
Carter’s mother said that that he had called his girlfriend when he got pulled over to alert her that he would call her from jail. He also was shot in the right temple, despite being left-handed and, perhaps more remarkable, being handcuffed behind his back.
However, Jonesboro police maintain that Carter committed suicide.
“Any given officer has missed something on a search, be it drugs, knife, razor blades, this instance it happened to be a gun,” said Jonesboro Police Sergeant Lyle Waterworth.
Officers Baggett and Marsh are on administrative leave.
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Image Credit: Carter Family