Police Video on Chavis Carter’s Death Does Little to Quell Claims of Murder

Chavis Carter
Chavis Carter was executed in a police car

The police in Jonesboro, Ark., have released a video that they say shows how a 21-year old man, Chavis Carter, could have been able to shoot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car and after he was searched twice. But the video appeared to do little to calm the skepticism that continues to swell on social media networks after Mr. Carter was fatally shot on July 29.

The police are preparing to release, possibly later on Thursday, another video extracted from a dashboard camera in the patrol car where Mr. Carter was placed after his arrest, Sgt. Lyle Waterworth, with the Jonesboro Police Department, said.

Protests and petitions have been circulated online and calls for the resignation of the Jonesboro police chief, Michael Yates, and for the records of the officers involved in Mr. Carter’s arrest to be made public have accelerated in the wake of Mr. Carter’s death. Some have compared the case of Mr. Carter, who is Black and was raised in Mississippi, to that of Trayvon Martin, the Black youth shot and killed by a crime watch volunteer in Florida earlier this year.

Early on Thursday, a Federal Bureau of Investigation regional spokeswoman, Kimberly Brunell, said the agency was “monitoring” developments related to the death but it has not announced the start of an official investigation.

The video, which is just over two minutes and was released on Wednesday, was not intended to serve as evidence that Mr. Carter shot himself in the head, but instead to show that it was possible, according to a statement broadcast in the initial frames of the footage. It then shows several officers demonstrating, one after another, by twisting around and putting a gun to their heads, with their right hands, while handcuffed.

A Memphis television channel, WREG, showed the video to Mr. Carter’s mother, who made it apparent that the demonstration did little to convince her.

In an earlier interview with the channel soon after his death, she said her son was left-handed and that she believed the police murdered him

Mr. Carter was arrested on a street in Jonesboro at about 9:50 p.m. after the vehicle he was in was stopped by the police. A Jonesboro police statement said that a small amount of marijuana and bags “commonly used to package drugs” were discovered in his pocket. After officers learned Mr. Carter had a warrant active in Mississippi, he was searched again and handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car.

Officers “noted the smell of something burning” and then “noticed Carter unresponsive with a quantity of blood on him,” the statement said. A .380 caliber Cobra semiautomatic firearm was “discovered,” and a “projectile” was found in the back seat, it said.

Sgt. Waterworth added in a telephone call that the two officers involved in the man’s arrest were put on paid administrative leave.

Mr. Carter’s death inspired inquiries into the past records of the officers in the department. A local Arkansas news outlet, KAIT8.com and Region 8 News, published the records of the policemen involved in arresting Mr. Carter. The Arkansas Times blog also dredged up the records of the police chief and the controversy that has surrounded his previous police work in Georgia.

A Facebook page called Justice for Chavis Carter, which had nearly 2,000 members, circulated online petitions calling for a full investigation into the death.

The finalcall.com newspaper and Web site also interviewed Mr. Carter’s mother, who said:

“I’m just heartbroken. I just want to know what really happened. … My child was never suicidal. He would never kill himself. My son was full of joy, full of life, full of ambition.”