Charles Douglas, the father of the late Chavis Carter, says police reports of what happened the night his son died don’t add up. Carter died from a gunshot wound to his head while handcuffed in the back of a police car.
Douglas, 49, told The Huffington Post that his son, “just turned 21. He was hopeful. He wasn’t suicidal.” Douglas added that authorities could have told him Carter died in a car accident, and that would have been more believable. But hearing that his son allegedly committed suicide, Douglas said, “I don’t believe it for one second.”
The night Chavis Carter died he was riding in a truck with two friends when they were pulled over in Jonesboro, Arkansas. After searching the three boys, officers found marijuana plastic baggies, and after running Carter’s name, found there was a warrant out for his arrest in Mississippi for marijuana possession. The officers searched Carter again, handcuffed his hands behind his back, and put him in the back of their squad car. The police report then claims that while the officers were searching the truck for the second time, they heard a loud thump, which they attribute to Carter shooting himself in the head.
Carter’s family members also report being told Carter shot himself in the right temple, which they found curious because he was left handed.
Jonesboro police chief Michael Yates originally called the shooting “bizarre” and admitted his officers’ version of the events “defied logic,” but he has recently come forward and said that shooting yourself while handcuffed behind the back in the back of police car is “very possible” and “quite easy.”
Yates is being criticized for the lack of diversity in his police department. Only three of the 145 members of the Jonesboro police force are black, according to the Jonesboro Sun. Given the controversy surrounding this incident, and the fact that it involved a young black man and two white cops, suspicions have been raised in the city’s African-American community.
Earlier this week, police in Arkansas released a video reconstruction meant to show how a 21-year-old man who is handcuffed behind his back could shoot himself in the head while in the backseat of a patrol car. The Associated Press reported a Jonesboro police officer of similar height and weight to Carter was used, and was supplied with the same type gun and handcuffs as were used the night Carter died.
“We just wanted to get a good perspective on how it could be done and the ease with which it could be done,” said Yates.
The family’s attorney, Russel Marlin stated that, “by all accounts, he was a healthy, happy guy. There’s no reason to think he would have killed himself.”
A prayer vigil and several rallies are scheduled for early next week in Jonesboro and Memphis, Tennessee. Supporters from the New Order National Human Rights Organization are planning to travel by bus from Atlanta.
Carter’s father, Douglas said he is “not going to feel satisfaction until justice has been met. I don’t believe he committed suicide. Until we get justice, we’re not going to get peace. He’s not resting in peace, this won’t be over until he is.”
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.