Autopsy: Arkansas Man Shot Himself While Cuffed in Back of Police Car

While an Arkansas medical examiner's report supports the accounts of officers who say Chavis Carter committed suicide, Carter's mother says she still doesn't believe it.

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Krystin McClellan / The Jonesboro Sun / AP

Supporters of Chavis Carter and his family, including 9-year-olds Taelor Chavis, center left, and Kimi Miller, center right, hold signs during the candlelight vigil held in honor of Carter at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark. Carter was shot in the head while his hands were cuffed behind him in an Arkansas patrol car on July 28.

Despite what critics are calling an acute improbability with an implausible explanation, Arkansas officials have ruled the death of a 21-year-old man a suicide after he was found shot in the back of a police cruiser — even though he was handcuffed from behind and had been searched twice for weapons.

Officials say Chavis Carter, 21, was picked up by authorities on July 29 during a traffic stop in Jonesboro, Ark., while riding in a pickup truck with friends. The other two men were let go, but Carter was held on a felony warrant from Mississippi once police discovered he had given them a fake name. A police report says he was placed in the back of the patrol car with handcuffs on and his hands behind his back; later, officers returned to the car to find that he’d been shot in the head. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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While Jonesboro police admit the circumstances are “bizarre,” they maintain that Carter committed suicide while in the car with a weapon he’d somehow concealed. They later released a reenactment video showing an officer of about Carter’s height and weight demonstrating how he might have shot himself. A dashboard camera video shows Carter being led from the vehicle by police, but showing no signs of resistance. Police say he was found with a small amount of marijuana, and a few small plastic bags to package them. There are no apparent sounds of a gunshot on the video and it does not show the moment any weapons were fired.

But the autopsy report, released Monday by the Arkansas State Crime Lab, backs up what police have said. It describes Carter as having marks on his hands consistent with being handcuffed and of an entrance wound to the right temple and an exit wound to the left. The report does not mention any gunshot residue found on his hands, which would be consistent with having fired a weapon. Nor does it place blame on anyone but Carter himself.

In consideration of the circumstances of death and after autopsy of the body, it is our opinion that Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old black male, died of a gunshot wound of the head. The agencies responsible for the investigation of his death were the Jonesboro Police Department and the Craighead County Coroner’s Office. They reported that he was detained during a traffic stop. He was cuffed and placed into a police car, where apparently he produced a weapon, and despite being handcuffed, shot himself in the head.

A toxicology report says Carter had tested positive for methamphetamine, oxycodone and marijuana, but showed he had not been drinking on the night of his death.

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The two arresting officers, as well as the two friends of Carters whom they let go, are white. The police report says officers searched Carter, but not the two friends, aged 18 and 19. The truck they were driving was searched.

In an e-mail sent by Jonesboro Police to TIME, officials say investigative parts of the incident report, search warrant returns and cell phone videos have not been released yet.

Carter’s mother isn’t buying the police’s version of the story, however. Theresa Carter told CNN that while her son was shot in the right side of the head — which the autopsy report supports — he was actually left-handed. In addition, she says, he called his girlfriend and told her he would contact her once he was released from custody. “They searched him twice,” she said. “I just want to know what really happened.”

19 comments
Cdm33
Cdm33

Most of these comments are ignorant and completely idiotic. This article is as vague as they get.. No way for the reader to form any opinion on this matter. Did he move his hands to the front? Was a gun concealed in the front of his pants (where a careless search would miss, but yet marijuana could easily be found in pockets)? Maybe the gun was more accessible by his right vs left hand. We aren't told the path of travel by the bullet, only right side to left side. We have no idea where this traffic stop was made - meaning, next to a busy highway where a gunshot sound would be minimized? What type of gun? Way too much left for the moron imagination. I would never go so far as to call this tragic incident a police cover up with so many details left out.

yaegerjj1232
yaegerjj1232

Was this a report by the police officers as hear say, or what? Show me the web cam/

JaitcH
JaitcH

Could it be that the late  Chavis Carter was a Houdini-would be?

He could have picked his handcuffs, magically produced a firearm from mid-air, shot himself and, in his dieing moments reshackled himself ... after disposing of the weapon?

The imagination of police officers, in framing someone, knows no limits.

Jn Brown
Jn Brown

so they just released the re-enactment.   wheres the real video?  soon to be lost or damaged would be my first guess.  the part about going to the car and "finding" him dead,  but didn't hear a shot when it happened?  but of course the state still hasn't dug up all the murder victims the guards killed at the penitentiary from decades ago have they?

John Forsthoffer
John Forsthoffer

   How could they miss a gun on his person? There is no mention of the gun in this article which should clearly be a big part of the story. What about the forensic evidence in the back seat of the cruiser, that could tell a lot.(angle of the bullet exit, blood and brain spatter etc.) It seems as if the author chose to leave some information out or information was withheld by the police. 

Joel Pelissier
Joel Pelissier

During the nazi era ,someone  in Germany committed suicide by shooting six bullets into his own  head.The South can be amazing sometime.

kendoka53
kendoka53

Maybe he was a mule for the well-known CIA drug running operation at  Mena Airport, formerly overseen by Gov. Bill Clinton. Yet another mysterious death in Arkansas.

therantguy
therantguy

We know what happened. The cops killed him. The simplest explanation is almost always the truth. The cops have to A) Miss a gun TWICE while finding small bags of marijuana B) This guy has to be able to reach said gun while handcuffed with hands behind is back C) Decide to end his life rather than face some minor charges all in a state that had lynchings of Black people and is as racist as it gets.

Wow a coroner who works for the cops said the cops are right. Big shocker.

f_galton
f_galton

Odds were he was eventually going to get shot anyway.

Vivian M
Vivian M

Yea sure! Keep justifying an untruth and some may just believe it!

HenryWhistler
HenryWhistler

So how does the autopsy in any way provide evidence for the suicide theory? It seems to just say yes, he was shot in the head, and police say he did it himself, so that's what happened.

Is the article leaving something out, or is the coroner a hack (no pun intended)?

concerned_democrat
concerned_democrat

This is pure unadultered bullshit. Since when would the police not search a black male.  They stop and search them all of the time for no reason, yet this young male somehow, smuggled a gun into the police car, performed like a contortionist while handcuffed with his hands behind his back and shot himself.  This was a police execution, plain and simple.  Send in the FBI to investigate.

Cdm33
Cdm33

A) Guns don't always fit in pockets. They can unfortunately be missed during a not so thorough search. B) Hands cuffed behind a back can easily be moved to the front. So much so, that in extreme circumstances, an arrestee can be charged with escape. C) Minor charges? The article said felony charges, not misdemeanor, or minor, and there was no elaboration. We don't know his criminal history and/or what kind of felony.

In the future, present intelligent arguments rather than contribute to the ignorance in the world.

Buzz Bayless
Buzz Bayless

Folks do shoot themselves in police custody sometimes. It's rare, and the only way it can happen, (if they don't grab a cop's gun) is if they missed the gun during the search. There's this on YouTube, it's graphic:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

BrunoFehr
BrunoFehr

@concerned_democrat  They say the kid was searches twice.

Karen_F
Karen_F

It is highly unlikly that you could get you hand up to right side of you head and pull a trigger with you hands handcuffed behind you, at least without breaking your left arm.  This is a grave misjustice of the law.  Why was an outside law enforcement agency bought in to investagate this, of course they found themselves not guility.  What a crock of crap, I pray his mother pushes this I know as a mother I would not rest until the truth came out for my son. 

BrunoFehr
BrunoFehr

@Cdm33  Another comment from you? Interesting how to aggressively support this insane theory. Like I said here once, cop or idiot you are one of them. You are telling us that cops are not killers, simply incompetent, because the kid was searched twice.
I tell you that we do not need killer cops nor incompetent cops, either way the cop should go to jail.

Buzz Bayless
Buzz Bayless

last part of url; =iayes47g8Jc or just search on YT for man shoots himself in police custody...