New details in the alleged suicide of 21-year-old Chavis Carter have emerged, perhaps giving more air to the possibility that the young Arkansas man indeed took his own life in the back of a police patrol car.
Carter’s girlfriend went on the record with Jonesboro police, telling them that Carter had called her from the car while still in police custody. According to the woman, Carter confirmed that he did have a gun with him while in police custody, and told her that he loved her, and was scared. An autopsy report released earlier this week in regards to the July 28 shooting ruled Carter’s death a suicide.
A police statement released the details involving Carter’s girlfriend, and reported that phone records proved that Carter had made at least one call from the back of the patrol car. The same statement admitted that the arresting officer had more than likely missed the gun while patting Carter down. Additionally, the autopsy report said that Carter had tested positive for meth and other drugs. The Arkansas man was also reported to have been involved in a quarter-pound marijuana deal.
When initial reports surrounding Carter’s death surfaced, members of the community were highly critical of the Jonesboro Police Department, with suspicions prompting the FBI Ballistics team based in Little Rock to become involved in the investigation. While new details seem to add some legitimacy to the original story, Benjamin Irwin, the lawyer representing Carter’s family, remains skeptical.
“I think the critical points still remain that this young man was in police custody,” he said. “He lost his life at a time when they had a responsibility and duty to protect him.”
The Arkansas state crime lab also reported on Wednesday that it did not perform a gunshot residue test on Carter, which it claims is standard procedure for homicide and suicide victims. According to the lab’s chief criminalist Lisa Channell, the test cannot determine whether or not a person pulled the trigger, only that they were involved in a shooting. Irwin refused to accept the crime lab’s reasoning.
“We hope that people concerned about justice, white and black, would find some common ground as we pursue this case of justice,” Irwin told reporters in Memphis, just hours before the Rev. Jesse Jackson staged a march in Jonesboro alongside Carter’s mother. “We simply want justice and fairness in the land. … We are convinced the explanations given so far are not credible ones.”