Did Chavis Carter Kill Himself?
While his hands were cuffed behind him, and while he was sitting in the back of vehicle that had “Jonesboro Police Department” graphics on the side, Chavis Chacobie Carter shot himself in the head. Though left-handed, he placed the gun to his right temple before he pulled the trigger.
At least that’s the “official” story given by those responsible for Carter being in that location.
Is that the truth? What have been the ramifications of this July 28th, 2012 incident in the months that have passed? And how could such a situation been avoided altogether?
Carter had been in a truck with two others idling on a street in Jonesboro, a city of about 70,000 in northeast Arkansas. The trio had been approached by a stranger named Keith Baggett, who demanded their identification and ordered them from the vehicle.
Baggett called his friend Ron Marsh, who soon appeared. Bagget searched the truck (he’d asked for and received permission from the driver) and found a scale was under the seat where Carter had sat.
Meanwhile, Marsh, who’d been feeling up Carter (which he justified by calling it a “Terry frisk”), found on his person less than 10FRNs worth of a plant some deemed “illicit.” Marsh then placed Carter into the back of his vehicle (something corroborated by a witness identified only by Bagget, Marsh and their colleagues as “Shakita”).
Marsh obtained Carter’s information and, after running it through a centralized database, learned that Carter was wanted by his colleagues in Mississippi for apparently not appearing in legal land when ordered (for allegedly selling an “illicit” plant).
At that point Marsh pulled Carter from his vehicle, did a more thorough search of his person, put him in handcuffs (hands behind him), and ordered him back into his vehicle.
Keep in mind that Carter’s actions (having on his person a plant, being near a scale, and the claimed sale of a plant) had no victim.
The next admitted-to contact with Carter by Baggett and Marsh was when he was discovered slumped over in the backseat with a gunshot to his right temple.
A single shot
Following the incident Michael Yates – a colleague of Baggett and Marsh – admitted that Carter’s death is “definitely bizarre and defies logic at first glance.”
Yet Yates continued, and stated that:
The average person that’s never been in handcuffs, that’s never been around inmates and people in custody would react exactly the same way that you just did, about how can that be possible. Well the fact of it is, it’s very possible and it’s quite easy.
The “official” version of events, put forth by Yates is that Carter, after being placed in the back of Marsh’s car without cuffs, “secreted” a .380 Cobra handgun and hid it in the backseat before he was pulled from the car, subjected to a more-thorough search, and placed in handcuffs behind his back. Then Yates says that:
It has been clearly and unequivocally established that Carter took his own life while under the influence of mind-altering drugs and while engaging in a series of criminal acts.
When learning of his son’s death Carters’ dad Douglas said “They could have told me anything, that he died in a car wreck or anything else. I can go for that. But suicide? I don’t believe it for one second.”
Carter’s girlfriend Brandie – that he called her when still seated in the truck and according to Brandie, “He just told me that he loved me and that he gave them a fake name and he was fixin’ to go to jail.” At least when talking to his girlfriend, Carter was not suicidal.
The “official” story bolstered
Yates and crew worked hard to stymie inquiries about what happened to Carter on the side of the road.
They obtained the cell phone records from Carter’s phone, which they claim prove that he was guilty of having a stolen firearm (per correspondence with Brandon Renald Baker, whom he’d agreed to take the tool). Yet others more familiar with that situation say the firearm was purchased from a woman (though she may have taken it from her husband, with whom she was having marital issues). Assuming the firearm was purchased legally, who’s business is it what tool, item or property a person carries with them?
Anyone who sought to learn if gunshot residue was on Carter’s right-hand got the official line from Arkansas state crime lab, which says it wouldn’t conduct such testing on victims of homicides or suicides. Huh? Might that be when such tests would be most beneficial? It sure makes the “official” story easier to stick to.
Yates and his colleague claim that another witness (whose name hasn’t been released) saw Marsh find the shot Carter in the back of his car, then saw him running to tell Baggett, then the pair return to the scene.
1. Why have only some of the related reports been made public? Baggett, followed by Marsh, were first on the scene. Later, colleagues Mike Branscum and Kenney Howard joined them. Though all four submitted an investigative narrative, only one (Baggett’s) has been shared. [I made a call to the Jonesboro PD during the week of Nov. 12th and inquired about this fact and was told that the other reports had been made public, yet the person was unable to point me to their location and subsequent searches didn’t turn them up.]
2. Why were key portions of video – when the gunshot allegedly happened and when Marsh supposedly realized Carter had a hole in his head – those that suffered from faulty recording?
The mission of those employed at the Jonesboro police department is:
The City of Jonesboro Police Department shall strive to ensure that all of our citizens are served in a professional, ethical and equitable manner that respects individuals, protects our democratic ideals and system of government, pursues greater accountability of police, greater public share in decision making and greater concern for civil rights and liberties.
If that’s true, then why did it take so long for the dash cam footage from the scene to be released? And when it was released, why were portions not included? Yates own claim is that certain segments didn’t record properly, as both cruisers at the scene were among the 33 with older technology. Funny that those portions that didn’t properly record were when the gunshot was supposed to have taken place and when Marsh, and then Marsh and Baggett found Carter.
Most folks weren’t satisfied by the lack of video released. Those employed at Jonesboro police published another video – one they made, that showed how some unidentified colleagues could, while their hands were cuffed behind them, reenact Carter’s alleged shooting.
Yet look how loose the cuffs were – anyone who’s found themselves in a similar position* will communicate that it unlikely that their handcuff could have been pushed halfway up their forearm to allow for such movement.
3. Why, if Carter was left-handed, would he shoot himself in the right temple? The autopsy states that the bullet’s route was right to left, slightly angled down and back, which makes for a position even more difficult considering his hands were handcuffed behind his back per “protocol.”
4. Why was Carter’s alleged suicide listed by Baggett as “9:47pm – 11:59pm” when he indicated that the report itself was made at “11:13pm”?
5. Why has Yates refused to answer questions about why he left his job as “chief” in Americus, Georgia? Perhaps some folks there know more and will speak out?
6. Have images of the firearm allegedly used by Carter in his suicide been released?
6. Why would Carter commit suicide? Both his mom and dad thought such behavior remote. His girlfriend said that she was hard to believe that Cater, who she described as “a good hearted person,” shot himself as they’d recently learned they were pregnant.
Baggett’s friends looked into his actions, eventually concluding that there was “no wrongdoing.”
On August 2, 2012, Kim Brunell, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Little Rock office (501-221-9100, Little.Rock@ic.fbi.gov), stated that, “We’ve been asked to get involved . . . The bureau’s ballistics experts will join the probe.” I made two calls to her office in mid-November, each time leaving a voicemail per the reason for my call, but have yet to hear back.
410 W. Washington
Jonesboro, AR 72401
Keith Baggett – on the scene, wrote incident report (870) 935-5657
Ron Marsh – on the scene, report redacted
Mike Branscum – report redacted
Kenney Howard – report redacted
Michael Yates – “chief”
What can be learned
Never give consent to a stranger to search your person or property. Baggett writes in his report, “I asked ****MASKED**** for consent to search his vehicle and he said yes.”
Huh!? If someone claims the right to hinder your freedom of movement why would you trust them to rifle through your property? Nothing positive can be gained from acquiescing.
Always record interactions with those who claim extra rights. Transparency is your best ally.
Just imagine how different the situation likely would have unfolded if Carter would have been streaming in real-time to the internet.
Real accountability will never be gotten through the current monopolized structure of policing. As shitty as it sounds, these types of incidents will continue to happen until they don’t.
That’s why it’s important to always strike the root, to always advocate for peaceful, consensual interactions.
As Lucy Steigerwald wrote over at Reason.com:
Even if the police story checks out, it’s still frustrating that Carter ended up being arrested for “suspicious driving” and then detained for giving police a fake name in order to disguise the notion that he had slipped away from a Mississippi drug deferment program…for one count of selling marijuana. Carter may not have been pure as the driven snow, he may even have stolen the gun that killed him, since it was reported as such a month before, but even so, he didn’t need to be in the back of that car at all. It’s hard not to wistfully think that with no drug war, the cops would always have bigger criminals to fry.
UPDATE Nov. 20th, 2012
A few hours after this post went live, FBI employee Kim Brunell returned my call (from 501-221-9100 – obviously her call was routed through the same central number that I’d twice called).
We had a couple/few-minute conversation in which she told me that her colleagues had concluded their investigation, that she couldn’t herself share any details that’d been ascertained, but that I could potentially learn such information by filing a FOIA request through the mail to:
FBI – Little Rock Division
24 Shackleford West Boulevard
Little Rock, AR 72211-3755
I’ll do that during the day of 2012.11.21.
UPDATE Nov. 26th, 2012
Above I noted that I’d put-in a call to Kim Brunell, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Little Rock office (501-221-9100, Little.Rock@ic.fbi.gov). Brunell called me back a couple days later and though she wouldn’t communicate any new details over the phone – only that their investigation had concluded – she noted that I could potentially get access to some of that information via a FOIA request.
Please provide any and all information related to the Chavis Carter inquiry pursued by staff in your office per the Freedom of Information Act. This includes, but is not limited to, reports, internal memos, emails, forensic evidence, video content.
The request can be sent to:
Pete Eyre’s address
Alternatively, the information can be emailed to:
Thanks for your attention to this matter.
As of now (2012.12.07) I’ve yet to receive anything but we’ll see…
[For more on FOIA requests, go to http://www.copblock.org/knowyourrights and scroll down to the section with the heading “Document, Document, Document”]
UPDATE Dec. 11th, 2012
Yesterday, after I got back from supporting friend Ian Freeman at court in MA, I found a lone letter from the FBI waiting for me in my mailbox.
Fortunately it wasn’t a threat, but was related to a FOIA request I had submitted to the Little Rock office per the supposed suicide by Chavis Carter, while handcuffed, in the back of a Jonesboro (AR) cruiser earlier this year.
Instead of providing me with the requested info, I was sent a form to fill-out with more info about myself (name, citizenship, slave number, addy, dob, place of birth, etc.), which, if incorrect, claimed I could be subject to a 10,000FRN ransom and/or five years in a cage.
Pretty telling how transparent are those who claim to serve us.
I do not plan to proactively provide said info. If someone else takes that step and receives-back related information, please do let me know so we can incorporate it here.
Further updates will be posted here.
*again, usually not for engaging in an action that actually harmed a person or property
Jonesboro police Aug. 3rd, 2012 media release:
News Release by Jonesboro PD 2pg
Jonesboro police Aug. 22nd, 2012 media release:
Media Report by Yates of Jonesboro PD 4pg