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Chavis Carter supporters host community forum

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Supporters of the man Jonesboro police say shot and killed himself in the back of a police patrol car held a community forum Saturday afternoon.

 

The Arkansas State University Black Student Association and the Nation of Islam hosted the Chavis Carter Community Forum at  Parker Park Community Center at 2 p.m.

 

The event featured a keynote address from Student Minister Nuri Muhammad, an Indianapolis representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan, and a question and answer session about the Chavis Carter investigation and the rights of citizens when they are stopped by police.

 

The panelists who answered questions from the audience include Little Rock attorney Jimmy Morris, former Blytheville city councilwoman Carol White, ASU Black Student Association vice president Nick Clark, and Sharmel Prunty, the mother of Brandon Baker.

According to Jonesboro police, Brandon Baker was the intended recipient of the stolen gun in Chavis Carter's possession July 28.

"Today was to raise awareness that the black community, we're in a spiritual warfare. What we need to do is ban together to help our young brothers and our young sisters," Prunty said. "The events that led up to Chavis Carter's murder is shaking the community."

 

Baker is currently in the Greene County Jail on aggravated burglary charges. 

 

Chavis Carter's mother was in attendance, but said she was advised by her lawyers not to speak to the media about the case.

RELEASE OF AUDIO INTERVIEW WITH CARTER'S GIRLFRIEND

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro Police released additional audio interviews from Chavis Carter's girlfriend and a woman who was on scene at the traffic stop the night Carter died in the back of a Jonesboro patrol car.

Carter's girlfriend, Brandie told JPD she talked to Carter a few times that night, both before and after he was in the patrol car.

"He just told me that he loved me and that he gave them a fake name and he was fixin' to go to jail," Brandie told JPD. She said this conversation occurred while Carter was still in the truck.

She said the next time she spoke with Carter was the first time he was placed in the patrol car.

"He told me he was in the back of the cop car and that he was scared and that he had a pistol on him," Brandie told police.

Brandie said in the interview that it was hard for her to believe that he shot himself, as they'd recently learned they were pregnant.

"He was so happy about me being pregnant, you know and that he was fixin' to have his first kid and that and he told me that he didn't want to lose his first family," she said.

She also told police that since Carter had been robbed recently, it wasn't unusual for him to be carrying a gun.

"And he really wasn't no drug dealer, this or that, I mean, he smoked it every now and again he did deal with it a little bit but he wasn't a bad person, he was a good hearted person," Brandie said.

The other interviewee, a woman identified as Shakita, told police she didn't know Carter. She said she was asked to go to the traffic stop by a mutual friend, and she was asked by police to stay on the scene while they continued their investigation into the drugs they found. Then she explained what happened once police learned of Carter's warrants out of Mississippi.

"Officer Marsh came over and placed him in handcuffs...see he'd been sitting in the back seat without handcuffs," Shakita said.

Thursday night's report released by JPD also includes an interview with a man who lived by the scene. He told the investigator he saw the moment the officer found Carter shot in the back of the car, then running to tell the other officer at the scene.

Investigators have ruled 21-year-old Chavis Carter's July 28 death a suicide. The documents released Thursday don't shed much new light on how Carter wound up in the back of a patrol car while armed with a pistol.

Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates has said his officers should have found the weapon.

Attorneys for the family of a young man who was fatally shot while his hands were cuffed behind him in an Arkansas patrol car have asked police to preserve evidence about his death, and police say they are preparing for a likely lawsuit. 

Also released were details from Carter's cell phone. Police say text messages on Carter's phone show he had stolen the gun in question from a woman or individual in Jonesboro. Police say other text messages show he had the gun on him to bring to another individual, Brandon Renald Baker. Baker is currently in the Greene County Jail on aggravated burglary charges, and admitted to police on Tuesday that he did request the gun from Carter.

Police also say that Carter's girlfriend told them he called her from the rear of the police car and told her that he loved her and that he had a gun on him in the rear of the police car and that he was scared.

Police also readily admit that Officer Marsh missed the gun on the initial pat-down of Carter.

For the autopsy, Arkansas' state crime lab says it didn't perform gunshot residue testing on a man fatally shot in the head while handcuffed in a patrol car because it doesn't do that kind of analysis on victims of homicides or suicides.

Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates told The Associated Press that the department had requested gunshot residue testing in the shooting death of 21-year-old Chavis Carter.

The lab's chief criminalist, Lisa Channell, told the AP that kind of the testing can indicate whether a person was in an environment with gunshot residue, but not whether he or she pulled the trigger of a gun.

CITY COUNCIL MEETING AND CORR MARCH

Jonesboro resident Debbie Pelley was one of many who packed the Huntington Building for the Jonesboro City Council meeting Tuesday night to voice her opinion about the Chavis Carter death investigation.

Pelley said she went to show her gratitude to the Jonesboro Police Department and Chief Michael Yates.

"I have worked on two or three different issues with Chief Yates, and I know he's a man of integrity and courage," she said.

According to the meeting agenda, the Council would allow five minutes for each person to speak during the public comments section of the meeting for a total of 15 minutes.

The Council allowed six people to speak.

Pelley received a standing ovation after concluding.

Tuesday afternoon began with a march and demonstration held by CORR, the Memphis-based Commission on Religion and Racism.

The group started at Haltom Street, where Jonesboro police say 21-year-old Carter shot and killed himself July 28.

"Jonesboro Arkansas stinks with injustice and the world is watching," said CORR member Maxine Thomas.

The march ended in front of the Huntington Building a few hours before the council meeting, where people would get the chance to speak their minds about the incident, including council members.

Councilman Chris Moore was the only council member to address the citizens who spoke at the podium during public comments.

Of the people the Council permitted to speak, one of the recurring themes was why Police Chief Yates left his job as Police Chief in Americus, Georgia.

"I've looked at blogs and newscasts all over the nation and they're spreading one side of the story and the other side of the story is not getting out," said Pelley.

Councilman Moore asked a woman at the podium if she would join him in condemning members of CORR who "don't wait for the answers and don't wait for the investigation, but they jump in front of the media and have signs such as ‘Those two police officers are killers.'"  

Councilman Moore also expressed his discontent with comments Moore said  were made by Craighead County NAACP President Perry Jackson to various media outlets.

"You and Dr. Grant said that Mr. Yates left Americus, Georgia amid serious charges of racism and abuse of power," said Councilman Moore.

Jackson responded by saying he has proof of those claims, but he did not bring the proof to the meeting.

"I actually have newspaper articles in my possession, but not right now, of some of the things that have gone on in Americus, Georgia, and I really don't know why he left Americus, Georgia, but my feeling is he left under that cloud," said Jackson.

Chief Yates declined to respond to the comments made at the meeting.

Another group of protestors marched Tuesday from the location of the traffic stop on Haltom Street to Jonesboro City Hall. Around 20 people were part of the march.

According to organizers, the Arkansas Chapter of the Commission on Religion and Racism (CORR) plan on attending Tuesday night's Jonesboro City Council meeting to voice their concerns and renew their call for police chief Mike Yates to step down over the investigation.

ARKANSAS STATE CRIME LAB

The Arkansas State Crime Lab has ruled the death of Chavis Carter as a suicide.

According to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, a gunshot wound was present on the right temporal scalp, just into Carter's hairline. The report shows there was dense soot in the underlying wound.

The report also shows the results of toxicology tests, which showed Carter did have meth in his system. The blood work also showed Carter had trace amounts of oxycodone and marijuana in his system at the time of his death. 

On Monday afternoon, Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates released the following statement exclusively to Region 8 News:

"The Medical examiner's office made their determination based upon their investigation and the evidence presented to them. Based upon our review of the facts and circumstances we believe their finding is consistent with the evidence and witness statements . The investigation is not complete at this point as we are still awaiting certain information to be returned to us for review."

The week of August 13-17, Jonesboro Police released dash-cam video from both Officer Ron Marsh, and Officer Keith Baggett's patrol cars from the moment the truck was stopped, until the moment officers discovered Carter shot in the back of the police car, and then shortly after he was found shot.

The video provided on our web site shows dash cam videos of each of the responding officer's patrol cars as well as video of witness interviews.

Amongst what is on the video, Carter is shown speaking from the back seat of Officer Ron Marsh's car and also talking with Marsh about his warrant out of Mississippi. The sound of a gunshot or any video of Officer Marsh finding Carter shot in the back seat of the car is not shown.

Portions of any tapes containing information regarding juveniles, NCIC & ACIC records, or personal information of deposed witnesses have been redacted in accordance with the law.

Officers recognize that when witnesses come forth in a high profile public case, they do so at the risk of an invasion of their privacy and potential intimidation.  They strongly encourage people to respect the position these citizens have been placed in, and discourage any such harassment or intimidation.

The Jonesboro Police Department said the investigation into Carter's death is still ongoing, and investigators are still waiting on the complete autopsy, forensics, and toxicology reports from the Arkansas State Crime Lab.

SPECULATION

With speculation surrounding Carter's and the recent call for Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates to resign, Region 8 News has requested through the Freedom of Information Act the personnel files of Chief Yates, and the officers listed in the July 28 incident report that claims Carter shot and killed himself while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.

The Jonesboro Police Department handed over 41 pages of personnel records for Keith Baggett and Ron Marsh, the officers who were on the scene when the gun discharged, and are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The records obtained through FOIA also include the personnel files of Mike Branscum and Kenny Howard, the officers who reported undisclosed investigative narratives in the incident report July 29 and 30 respectively.

Officer Baggett's account of the events leading up to Chavis Carter's death is the only police narrative that has been made public.  According to Chief Yates, Officer Baggett came to the Jonesboro Police Department in 1996 as a dispatcher before becoming an officer in 2009.

According to his personnel file, in February 2010, Baggett received a formal admonishment for failing to conduct a pursuit in accordance with JPD policy.  His records also reveal in November 2010, Chief Yates received a letter from a citizen praising Baggett as "patient, courteous and professional."

Chief Yates said Officer Ron Marsh came to the Jonesboro Police Department in 2007.

According to his personnel records, Marsh received four formal commendations, one award, a complimentary letter from a citizen, two admonishments, a letter of counseling in April 2012 for not calling in traffic stops and two reprimands during his time with the department.

The formal reprimand for Marsh dated November 20, 2009, was due to Marsh failing to appear in court November 16, 2009, after being subpoenaed.

The formal reprimand for Marsh dated May 6, 2010, was due to a complaint from a citizen that claimed Marsh left "notes on her vehicle" that were "improper and caused her discomfort." In the reprimand Marsh admitted to leaving the notes, and "stated he intended no harm and the notes were an attempt at humor."

The formal admonishments for Marsh dated March 9, 2009, and February 16, 2010, were due to minor accidents in a patrol car.

According to the personnel file of Officer Kenny Howard, beginning in 1993, Howard served with the Weiner Police Department for two years and seven months before working as an officer in Jonesboro.

In his time with the Jonesboro Police Department Howard has received seven formal commendations, a two-day suspension without pay for violating an undisclosed department policy and a formal reprimand for using profanity towards a dispatcher.

According to the personnel file of Investigator Mike Branscum; Branscum had been the owner of Branscum Appraisal since 1992 before working for the Jonesboro Police Department.

Branscum received three formal commendations, two complimentary letters from citizens, one reprimand in August 1999 for violating JPD court procedure, a letter of counseling in May 2000 for not completing a police report by deadline, and another letter of counseling in August 2001 for a lack of preparation to testify in a court case.

Jonesboro Police told Region 8 News "there are not any personnel actions in Chief Yates' file. His employment history would have been in the possession of the Mayor's Office since he was hired as a department head."  

Region 8 News reported that Chief Yates came to the Jonesboro Police Department to serve as Police Chief in 2005.  Yates was the Chief of Police in Americus, Georgia prior to working in Jonesboro.

CORR CALLS FOR RESIGNATION

The Arkansas Chapter of the Commission on Religion and Racism (CORR) wants Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates to step down due to his handling of the Chavis Carter death investigation.

The group picketed Tuesday afternoon beginning at 11:30 at the Jonesboro City Hall and Police Department, and publicly called for the resignation of Chief Yates.

"We are not going to accept this lie that the City Council, Mayor, Police Chief, Police Department are trying to put out," said CORR national director Dr. Isaac Richmond. "It is impossible. We have tried it on numerous of us. We have tried it, and it cannot be done."

A flyer disseminated to protestors stated "if Chief Michael Yates refuses to (or for some reason cannot) get to the bottom of this case and bring the killer(s) to justice, he should resign his post or be terminated by the Mayor and the Council."

"The Chief has no business serving without saying anymore that he has said," Dr. Richmond said.

"I'm here today for justice because I don't think that boy shot his self," said Jonesboro resident Ruby Ward. "I want to see (the officers) get what's deserved to them."

Dr. Richmond accuses Chief Yates of protecting officers who have shown repeated patterns of police brutality. "Just like these priests are found doing something in one parish, and they're not punished.  They're sent to another to carry on. So, that's the same thing that goes on in the police department."

In a statement to Region 8 News Chief Yates responded by saying, "I believe (the accusation) is inaccurate and unfounded," and "I have no intention of resigning."

REENACTMENT

The Jonesboro Police Department released a re-enactment video Monday, August 13 demonstrating how they believe Carter could have shot himself in the temple.

"I don't see how it could be possible. I saw the news reel (Monday) night. I don't think that it is possible," said protestor Gayle Taylor.

"We want the city to end the cover-up. Stop obstructing justice because if this prevails it means that the African American community lives outside of equal protection of the law," said Dr. Richmond.

Protestor Felecia Harvey said she spoke with Chavis Carter's mother during the protest Tuesday afternoon. "She's hurting, but she's happy that somebody is standing up for what's right," said Harvey.

"I'm sure the every officer in that police department is not bad, but one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch."

INVESTIGATION

JPD said Carter, of Southaven, Mississippi, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while handcuffed in a patrol car, according to police records. The officers who had Carter detained are currently on administrative leave.

A press release indicated that a small .380 caliber cobra semi-auto firearm was discovered along with an expended case and a projectile, which was recovered in the back of the vehicle.  Investigators said the firearm found in the patrol car had previously been reported stolen by a Jonesboro resident.

These pieces of evidence were packaged and sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab along with Carter's body after he died at a nearby hospital a short time after the shooting.

A number of witnesses were interviewed, and police said their statements were consistent with the officers' accounts of what happened and with the dash cam video from both cruisers. Officers said the statements and the audio/video evidence from the dash cams account for the policemen's actions from the beginning of the stop until the arrival of the ambulance. 

"We feel confident that at this stage in the investigation that the evidence supports the fact that the officers themselves did not injure Mr. Carter," said Michael Yates, the Jonesboro police chief.

"However, it is an unusual event," Yates added. "It's still under investigation, causes a great concern naturally."

The report also said the evidence indicates that neither officer removed his weapon, fired a shot or was in a position to enter the vehicle where Carter was detained in a manner that would allow for them to injure Carter.

Police are continuing the search for witnesses and anticipate further investigation.

Furthermore, the police department told Region 8 News that the windows in the patrol unit where Carter was detained were up and intact, indicating no possibility of a bullet penetrating from the outside of the patrol unit.

How Carter managed to shoot himself remains a mystery, but JPD has been in contact with the FBI who have agreed to monitor the case, and Jonesboro Police are sharing all investigative material with them.

The Jonesboro Police Department has also inspected Carter's cell phone. The inspection, police said, revealed that Carter may have been in possession of the gun while engaged in some sort of drug related activity prior to his encounter with the police.

TRAFFIC STOP

According to the original police report, Carter was a passenger in a pickup truck that was stopped just before 10 o'clock July 28 on Haltom Street.

Officer Keith Baggett said while he searched the vehicle, Officer Ron Marsh questioned and searched Carter.  He reportedly found "some marijuana" and several new plastic baggies on Carter.

According to the report, Officer Marsh ran Carter's information through dispatch and learned that he was wanted on a warrant out of DeSoto County, Mississippi.

After confirming the warrant, Baggett said Marsh had Carter "exit the patrol unit, placed him into handcuffs, searched him a second time then placed him into the back seat of the patrol unit."

While he and Officer Marsh walked back to his patrol unit, Officer Baggett said a car passed and then he heard "a loud thump with a metallic sound."  At the time he believed the vehicle had run over a piece of metal on the road.

After questioning and releasing the other two men, Officer Marsh reportedly returned to his unit while Officer Baggett said he prepared to leave the scene.  He then heard "several thumps" on his trunk and saw Officer Marsh motioning for him.

Officer Marsh reportedly said Carter had shot himself. 

The two officers opened the rear passenger side door and found Carter in a "sitting position slumped forward with his head in his lap."  Officer Marsh said there was a large amount of blood on Carter's shirt, pants, seat and floor.  He also said Carter's hands were still cuffed behind his back.  A small caliber handgun was reportedly found beside him.

Seeing that Carter was still breathing, Officer Marsh radioed for an ambulance and a supervisor.  Carter was taken to St. Bernards Regional Medical Center where he later died of his injury.

Officers Baggett and Marsh are on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Neighbors living near the area where Carter was stopped are left with many questions unanswered regarding this strange incident. 

Several residents spoke off-camera to Region 8 News about what they saw or heard that night. 

One woman said she saw the white truck that Carter was riding in parked near her home. She says the truck had turned off its lights, but she thought nothing was strange until several police cars arrived. 

She and other neighbors say they did not hear the gunshot go off that killed Carter. They say they would eventually like to hear a full, thorough explanation about what happened from police.

Region 8 News will continue to track this story and bring you any new details as soon as they become available. 

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.

 

Story Extras

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Video: JPD Dash Cam Part 1 JPD Dash Cam Part 2 JPD Dash Cam Part 3 JPD Dash Cam Part 4 Casper Gibson phone interview Aug. 1st Casper Gibson phone interview Aug. 7th Jamie Anderson interview Protesters

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