Investigators in Jonesboro, Arkansas say they are awaiting the results of an autopsy and toxicology reports to help determine what happened in a police cruiser where a young black man whose hands were cuffed behind his back was shot in the head.
An incident report obtained by BlackAmericaWeb.com lists the cause of 21-year-old Chavis Chacobie Carter’s death as suicide. Police who were on the scene Saturday night said Carter fired a gun and struck his right temple.
But the young man’s mother and father have said their son was not suicidal.
Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates said they still are trying to figure out how it happened.
“It is bizarre,” Yates told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “After we get the reports, we’ll be able to recreate the setting to determine how it happened or eliminate some theories.”
Meanwhile, the two officers involved in Carter’s arrest, both white, have been placed on administrative leave while the case is investigated, Yates said.
Initially police were called to a residential neighborhood around 11:15 p.m. on a report of a suspicious vehicle, according to the police report. Carter and two teens were in a Chevrolet pickup on West Washington Avenue.
Officers checked out the identification on all three, and initially Carter’s information and vehicle registration didn’t check out, Yates said.
Officers patted him down twice at one police car. Soon marijuana was discovered in the truck and police learned that Carter was wanted on warrants out of Mississippi, Yates said.
“He was handcuffed and placed in another police car. Some time passed before officers say they heard a thud,” the chief said, and that is when they discovered a wounded and bloody Carter in the back seat.
Carter was taken to a local hospital where medical staff worked on him a while before he was pronounced dead, Yates said.
The incident was recorded on a dash camera and that, along with statements from witnesses, will be used to try to piece together the sequence of events.
Carter’s family and friends say they don’t believe the account given by police.
"I don't believe this was an accident. I know my son. He's not suicidal. He wouldn't have taken his own life," his father, Charles Douglas, told ABC24. "Under the circumstances they say this happened, it's impossible."
The story of Carter’s death has spread this week on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
A page launched Wednesday on Facebook labeled Justice for Chavis (ASAP) Carter, had almost 900 likes within about 24 hours.
And on Twitter the tweets have been almost constant, with most sharing the sentiments of someone Chris Johnson who tweeted around 8 p.m. CST: “The official version of this story is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard in a long time.”
The Arkansas NAACP has received several calls from people who are concerned about the case. State President Dale Charles told BlackAmericaWeb.com the organization will release an official statement on Friday.
The chief said he hopes to have the case sorted out soon, but is limited to the information he can publicly release.
“Given the ongoing nature of the investigation we are unable to release further information at this time but hope to release more details soon,” Yates said. “We have been conferring with the crime lab, medical examiner’s office, coroner and FBI agents regarding the case.”