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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Any time a suspect dies in police custody, there’s sure to be trouble. As, indeed, there should be. The mysterious death of Chavis Carter, 21, of a gunshot wound to the temple inside a locked patrol car in Jonesboro, AR was certain to attract outsized scrutiny from the news media.

Even without the ever-combustible racial angle—black victim, white cops—the Sherlock Holmes aspect of the tragedy naturally aroused interest. Very briefly, Carter and two white kids in a pickup truck with Missouri plates struck local residents as suspicious, cruising around with no headlights at 9:50 p.m. on a Sunday night.

Jonesboro officers responding to a 911 call confirmed the identities of two of the three young men by running their driver’s licenses. The identity of the third, who had no ID but called himself Larayan Bowman, could not be verified. The others claimed they’d met him only that night.

After finding a small amount of marijuana in “Bowman’s” pockets, officers placed him unrestrained in the back seat of a patrol car. After he admitted his real name, they determined that there was a bench warrant for Chavis Chacobie Carter’s arrest on a parole violation out of DeSoto County, MS.

According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Carter had failed to comply with the terms of a drug-diversion plan after pleading to a single count of selling marijuana—hardly a one-man crime wave.

According to their written report, officers took Carter out of the patrol car, placed him under arrest, searched him, handcuffed his hands behind his back, and then locked him inside with the vehicle’s windows tightly closed. Several witnesses observed it all. An aunt of Carter’s arrived at the scene, presumably summoned by cell phone. Informed of the charges, she drove off.

As the officers walked toward the second patrol car to interview the other suspects, the report says, “I saw a vehicle driving north on Haltom and then heard a loud thump with a metallic sound. I thought the vehicle had ran over a piece of metal on the roadway.” They subsequently gave Carter’s two friends a warning, and allowed them to drive away.

Only after returning to his unit did one officer smell gun smoke, and find Chavis Carter “in a sitting position slumped forward with his head in his lap. There was a large amount of blood on the front of his shirt, pants and floor. His hands were still cuffed behind his back.”

As Carter was still breathing, officers called EMS, which transported the grievously wounded man to a hospital where he died that night.

A subsequent search of the patrol car found a .380 caliber Cobra pistol—a cheaply-made, semi-automatic weapon recently reported stolen in town.

Admirably responsive to the news media—local reporters say they had a full report from the Jonesboro PD on their desks first thing Monday morning—police chief Michael Yates hasn’t necessarily helped himself by describing the tragedy as “bizarre” and saying it “defies logic at first glance.”

  • I truly believe that the cops shot him.

    • followet

      You think they could come up with a better story.

      • And their motive for murdering a complete stranger in cold blood in front of a bunch of witnesses would be what?

        • followet

          Motive? Lets see he was pissed at his wife and the kid who was 21 gave him some lip and the cop got pissed off and shot opps he says. Does anyone have a throw away (ask your local cop what a throw away is)

  • I think this is possibly only a case of the police not properly searching Carter before placing him in the back of the police car the first time. It is not stated how the small amount of marijuana was found in Carters pocket, whether it was from a search or a disclosure from Carter, but there is no mention of an search before police put him uncuffed in the back of the car the first time. I suggest that he removed the gun from his person at that time and then later when he was arrested, searched and handcuffed and placed back in the car he somehow caused the weapon to go off, either intentionally or accidentally. This could have been avoided if Carter had been searched thoroughly before being place in the car the first time. This all assumes that the facts as stated in this story are correct.

    • SaneJane

      What about the comment that he was shot in the temple? I could go with the accidental story if the wound was somewhere else on his body.

      • followet

        10-4 SaneJane

      • berrysoeto

        he wasa good shot

    • followet

      He shoot himself in the temple. His hands were still cuffed behind his back. Temple frontal area of his head. Behind his BACK!!! Is something a little rotten here. Who owned the gun could it be a throw away. Cops are known to have guns like that.

      • berrysoeto

        Your trying to apply white logic to some one who is black it doesn’t work

        • followet

          I see because he is black he is able to get his hands from behind his back shoot himself in the temple (you do know where your temple is in front of your ear are up about 1/2 and inch.) So has his hand in front now. Miracle that he can do this since handcuffs are designed not to allow this to happen. He shoots himself and then returns his hand to being handcuffed behind him. I don’t know black people could do this. I am going to wonder if he isn’t going to dance at his funeral.

  • tranz2deep

    If, as I believe is possible given the information in the report, he tried to pull the gun from the back of his pants and kick it into the depths of the seat well, it could have gone off easily.

  • berrysoeto

    Sounds like they should have searched hm better, looks like he had a piece and decided suicide was the only option than face a jury of his peers