One of two Arkansas police officers placed on paid administrative leave after Chavis Carter was fatally shot while handcuffed in their patrol car is back at work, authorities said Monday.
Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates said OfficerKeith Baggett returned to work after an internal investigation cleared him of wrongdoing in the shooting death of 21-year-old Chavis Carter. An autopsy report concluded that Carter — whose hands were cuffed behind his back — shot himself in the head, though his family has been demanding more information from police.
Baggett stopped a truck in which Carter was a passenger along with two other White males on July 28, after someone reported a suspicious vehicle driving down a residential street. Another officer, Ron Marsh, responded to the scene and patted Carter down twice but didn’t find a gun.
Yates didn’t respond to an email about whether Marsh remains on paid leave. Baggett and Marsh didn’t respond to phone messages left at the police department.
“I’m surprised that with an investigation that is supposed to be ongoing and has not reached a conclusion yet that you can go ahead and bring back one of the officers that was involved in a continuing investigation,” Carter’s family’s lawyer, Benjamin Irwin, said Monday.
Police have been facing criticism since they said the two searches turned up a small amount of marijuana on Carter, but no gun. Questions about race have cropped up, too, because Carter was Black and police have said Baggett and Marsh are White.
Police released more details about the shooting last week, including a statement that said there appears to be no doubt that Marsh missed the gun during the initial search. Police said they presume Carter hid the gun in the back of the patrol car after the first pat-down, before he was handcuffed and searched again.
Police have said the investigation into Carter’s death is ongoing, and the FBI has said it is monitoring the case.
Police previously released video recorded from dashboard cameras the night of the shooting, but the footage didn’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.
Authorities said there were problems with the audio and video that explain the absence of a gunshot or noise on the recordings, though the lawyer for Carter’s family hasn’t accepted that explanation.