Officers Ron Marsh and Keith Bagget, the two arresting officers present when Chavis Carter was fatally shot on July 28, have returned to work after spending one month on paid administrative leave. They had arrested Carter, 21, in Jonesboro, Arkansas after finding suspected drugs on his person during a routine traffic stop. After searching Carter twice, handcuffing him behind his back, and placing him in the back of a police cruiser, Marsh and Bagget reported that Carter shot himself in the head with a concealed gun after they stepped away from the car.
The Jonesboro police department immediately ruled Carter’s death a suicide, which was later confirmed by the autopsy report released on August 20.
Unrest over this ruling spurred protests in support of Carter, his family and a public seeking answers to the puzzling details of Carter’s death.
“How (did) he shoot himself in his right temple and he (was) left-handed? In handcuffs?” one of his friends asked during a vigil following the autopsy’s release. The Associated Press confirmed that the state crime lab report does not explain this.
Lawyers for the Carter family believe reinstating Marsh and Bagget after what they deem a shoddy investigation is evidence of a police cover up.
“The Jonesboro Police have reinstated both officers that displayed such a high degree of negligence that it lead to the loss of a life of a young man in their custody,” Benjamin Irwin, who represents the Carter family, said in a statement to the press. “It continues to become abundantly clear that the Jonesboro Police Department was not only negligent the night of the shooting; it is also seemingly clear that they are becoming negligent in their investigation of the events that happened on July 28, 2012. This appears to be becoming more and more like an attempt to clear two officers of any wrongdoing than to discover the actual facts of what occurred that night young Chavis Carter lost his life.”
Irwin asserted that the investigation omitted essential elements, such as gun residue tests. For this reason, the managing partner of The Cochran Firm stated that an independent investigation has been launched by his group to examine lingering questions.
“What happened leading up to him being taken into custody?” Irin asked. “What happened to the video? What happened to the audio?” he queried regarding the output of the police dashboard cam. “What has happened with the investigation since then? Why is the Jonesboro Police Department so determined to overlook such pressing issues and take such a rush to judgment?”
Officer Ron Marsh will be reprimanded as a condition of being reinstated, Jonesboro police chief Michael Yates stated on Tuesday, because it was determined that he did not do a thorough enough search of Carter on the night of the incident.
Officer Bagget’s conduct was deemed appropriate according to evidence examined during an internal Jonesboro Police Department investigation, which informed Yates’ decision to reinstate the officers.
The FBI is continuing to monitor the case, according to the Associated Press.
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