Chavis Carter family challenge police 'suicide' account
- 17 August 2012
- From the section US & Canada
Relatives of a man who allegedly shot himself dead in a police car after being searched twice and handcuffed are questioning that account of his death.
Chavis Carter, 21, was arrested in the state of Arkansas for a drug offence in Mississippi, and possessing cannabis.
Jonesboro police say Carter concealed a gun and, while handcuffed, raised the weapon and shot himself in the head in the back of the police car on 28 July.
His family say Carter was not suicidal. The FBI is monitoring the case.
A video from the dash cam of the police car was released under a Freedom of Information Act request from media organisations.
But the footage has done little to answer the Carter family's questions because while it shows their son being questioned and handcuffed, it does not include the moment the fatal shot was fired.
Russell Martin, the family's lawyer, said: "By all accounts, he was a healthy, happy guy. There's no reason to think he would have killed himself."
Carter, an African-American, was shot in the right temple, but his family say he was left-handed, the Huffington Post reported.
On Tuesday, police in Jonesboro released a video reconstructing events - using the same type of handcuffs and the same model of handgun - to demonstrate what they believe happened to Carter.
In the video, an officer of similar height and weight to Carter sat in the back of a police car, leaned over and was able to lift the weapon to his head and reach the trigger.
"We just wanted to get a good perspective on how it could be done and the ease with which it could be done," Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates told the Associated Press news agency.
Chief Yates has said it is possible Carter hid the gun in the police car after he was searched the first time - before he was handcuffed.
"It's obvious they did miss the weapon on the first search. It is likely, since he was placed into the car unhandcuffed the first time, that he had an opportunity to stash the weapon in the car," Chief Yates said.
"The second search, which was more thorough and inclusive, did not disclose the weapon either."
Demonstrations are planned for early next week in Jonesboro as community leaders continue to search for answers to the death in custody.