Chavis Carter case: Mother disputes police story of squad car suicide

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Chavis Carter, 21, died of a gunshot wound to the head Saturday night in Jonesboro, Arkansas, while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car. Officers Keith Baggett and Ron Marsh claim that Carter committed suicide, that he managed to pull a gun on himself while they searched his vehicle. They had already searched Carter’s person and found no weapon.

According to reports from WREG-TV, Carter was riding in the passenger seat of a pickup truck that was pulled over after 10 pm. Marsh searched Carter and found marijuana plastic baggies. After running his information, the officers discovered Carter had a warrant out in the state of Mississippi. He was then handcuffed (the police report states that he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back), searched again, and placed in the back of the police car.

While searching the vehicle a second time, the officers claim to have heard a loud thump accompanied by a metallic sound, which according to them was Carter shooting himself in the head. When they opened the door, officers Baggett and Marsh found that Carter was still handcuffed with his hands behind his back, but their police report attributed his death to a self-inflicted gunshot. Officers claim to have missed the gun during their two searches of Carter.

“Any given officer has missed something on a search, be it drugs, knife, razor blades, this instance it happened to be a gun,” according to Jonesboro Police Sergeant Lyle Waterworth. Carter’s mother, Teresa, is not so sure.

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“I think they killed him, my son wasn’t suicidal,” she told WREG. She says her son was left-handed, but was shot in the right temple, and had previously placed a phone call to his girlfriend to tell her that he would be calling her from jail. “I mean, I just want to know what really happened,” she said.

This suspicious shooting death comes not too long after the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) released a report showing that in the first half of 2012 (January 1 – June 30), 120 black people have been killed by police, security guards, or self-appointed law enforcers.

Police in Jonesboro are conducting an investigation to determine just how Carter was shot. The two officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Follow Mychal Denzel Smith on Twitter at @mychalsmith