One of the officers in the alleged “back seat suicide” in Arkansas, in which police say 21-year old Chavis Carter killed himself with a gun while handcuffed alone in the back of a police car, will face an administrative reprimand.
The Associated Press reported that according to Jonesboro police chief Michael Yates, Officer Ron Marsh did not search Carter thoroughly enough after picking him up on an outstanding arrest warrant July 28. Marsh will also be required to undergo more training.
Carter was frisked both before and after being handcuffed that night and was put in the back of a police car, where Marsh and another officer, Keith Baggett, later said they found Carter dead with a gunshot wound to the right temple. An autopsy report released earlier this month seemed to corroborate the officers’ story.
However, the state crime lab said it did not test the gunshot residue because it doesn’t do that type of analysis on suicide or homicide victims.
On Tuesday, authorities released information they said came from Carter’s cell phone: text messages saying he had stolen the gun from someone in Jonesboro to deliver to a local inmate, Brandon Renald Baker. Police say Baker admitted he asked Carter for the gun. This release follows a reenactment video produced by the department, as well as footage from the traffic stop where Carter was picked up.
Carter’s family and other observers expressed their skepticism early on for the police’s explanation for his death, a sentiment that continued on Tuesday, as members of the Commission on Religion and Racism (CORR) held a demonstration before marching to the Huntington Building, site of a local city council meeting Tuesday night.
“Jonesboro, Arkansas stinks with injustice,” CORR member Maxine Thomas said. “And the world is watching.”
During the meeting, Council member Chris Moore rebuked members of both CORR and the Craighead County chapter of the NAACP for saying Yates left his last position, as police chief of Americus, Georgia, “amid serious charges of racism and abuse of power.”
Chapter president Perry Jackson said he had newspaper articles in his possession proving his allegations, but not at the meeting.
“I really don’t know why he left Americus, Georgia,” Jackson said. “But my feeling is he left under that cloud.”
A post earlier this month at the Daily Kos, however, did allude to “racially tinged” incidents during Yates’ tenure as chief there.
“I can tell you about the so called ‘Obama Riot’ where African American college students celebrating Obama’s 2008 victory found a large number of police suddenly pulling into their party, only to throw one of the boys there down on the ground and kick him repeatedly,” user ARDem wrote. “I can also tell you that the Jonesboro police are now being looked at by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Last night at the commission’s meeting, a lot of stuff got said about Yates and the fact that our police force is almost a full 100% white. That’s right, nearly 100%-there are no African American officers in a town where something like 19-21% of the population is black and a citizens diversity group has met with a lot of foot dragging from Yates.”
Yates did not respond to the allegations made against him at the council meeting.
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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