Police video recorded the night a young man was fatally shot in a patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back has not resolved questions about whether he shot himself in the head as officers said.
Police released footage to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a Freedom of Information Act request this week. They released more footage on Friday amid questions about why the first batch of video appeared to end before the officers found Chavis Carter, 21, slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car on July 28 as described in a police report. Police have said officers had frisked Carter twice without finding a gun.
Police said the second batch of video occurred after Carter was discovered, but that footage was not immediately available in its entirety.
“There’s still nothing in there about what actually happened with Chavis,” Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis-based lawyer representing Carter’s family, said on Friday before the second batch of video had been released.
The internal police investigation into the shooting has not yet been completed. The FBI has said it is also monitoring the case.
Sergeant Lyle Waterworth, spokesman for the Jonesboro police, said on Friday morning that he had not yet seen the video his department released the night before. Hours later, amid questions about the dashboard camera video that had been released, he agreed to release some more that he said occurred after Carter was discovered.
No other dashboard camera video exists, he said, but additional video was retrieved during a forensic exam of Carter’s phone. He said that remains part of the active investigation and would not be released yet.
To explain stops in the video, he said the camera system in both patrol cars is controlled automatically with an emergency light bar and siren system.
“After the light bar is turned off the camera system ends its recording,” Waterworth said.
The second batch of video begins as what looks like light from a police car flickers on a stretch of road. A dog barks and a white SUV turns around a short distance down the street.
An unseen man curses shortly after he says: “He was breathing a second ago.” An ambulance pulls up and someone, perhaps the same man, says: “I patted him down. I don’t know where he had it hidden.” Later, someone instructs the others to leave everything as it is.
The first batch of video begins when an officer pulls up to a white pickup truck on a dark street in Jonesboro, about 209km northeast of Little Rock. He talks to the driver, Carter and another passenger.
Another officer arrives at the scene and searches Carter, who police say initially gave a different name. The officer does not appear to find a gun as he pats Carter down, though something else falls to the ground as the officer shines a flashlight toward Carter.
The officer leads Carter, who is not yet handcuffed, toward the patrol cars and then out of the frame.
Meanwhile, the other officer searches the driver and remaining passenger, who then stand in front of the first patrol car. The officer who searched Carter asked them where the rest of the marijuana was because he found some on Carter.
The driver and other passenger are handcuffed and led out of the frame, too.
Eventually, they appear without handcuffs and the officers let them leave.