Chavis Carter

Chavis Carter21-year-old shot in the head while handcuffed in the back of police car

Compiled from various sources
submitted by: Larry Fedja – March 2014

Updates on this case listed at the foot of this item

21-year-old Chavis Carter died in the back of a patrol car from a gunshot to the head on 28 July 2012 after being picked up in a traffic stop in Jonesboro, Arkansas during which drugs were discovered in the vehicle. Police alleged that he had shot himself whilst handcuffed.

Hundreds of people took to the streets to protest an official explanation of ‘suicide’ in the death of Chavis who was pulled over by police. Having found a set of scales giving off a strong smell of marijuana, and a bag containing a white substance, a check was run on Carter revealing an outstanding warrant, according to copy of the police report posted online.

He had his hands cuffed behind his back when he was placed into the police car.

A video from the dash cam of the police car was released under a Freedom of Information Act request from media organisations. The footage shows police questioning and arresting Carter, as well as their interview of two other people. See video & report here >

In an apparent copy of the official incident report posted online by, an officer states that he heard a “loud thump and a metallic sound” while speaking to the two other suspects. But he dismissed it as the sound of a car driving over a piece of metal on the roadway.

It was only after the two other suspects were sent away that Carter’s body was discovered, one officer recorded.

An officer said “We went to the rear passenger side door, opened it and I observed Carter in a sitting position slumped forward with his head in his lap. There was a large amount of blood on the front on his shirt, pants, seats and floor. His hands were still cuffed behind his back.”

Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates stated; “It’s obvious they did miss the weapon on the first search. It is likely, since he was placed into the car un-handcuffed the first time, that he had an opportunity to stash the weapon in the car. The second search, which was more thorough and inclusive, did not disclose the weapon either.”

A subsequent autopsy report listed the death of Chavis as a suicide. The state crime lab report, signed by three medical examiners, said the muzzle of a gun was placed against the right side of 21-year-old Chavis Carter’s head when it was fired.

The report said the manner of death was ruled a suicide based on autopsy findings and investigative conclusions from the Jonesboro police department.

Instead of focusing on the newly released report into the apparent suicide, the family and campaigners were asking more questions: “How (did) he shoot himself in his right temple and he (was) left-handed? In handcuffs?” one of his friends, Bianca Tipton, asked. The state crime lab report, released to news organizations under a public records request, didn’t answer that question.

Instead, the report says Carter’s death was ruled a suicide based on autopsy findings and investigative conclusions from the Jonesboro Police Department, which has faced questions from Carter’s family and community members about the circumstances surrounding his death.

Only days after an autopsy report concluded that Chavis was killed by a gunshot blast to his head while handcuffed in the police car, the lab that conducted the analysis admits that they did not do all the tests they were ordered to complete.

Gunshot residue tests, says Channell, can indicate if a suspect was in the general vicinity of a firearm when the trigger is pulled. “It cannot,” however, “tell you whether the person pulled the trigger or not.”

The family of Chavis refute police claims that he committed suicide.

Rev. Jackson led a prayer vigil at the site of the shooting, then marched two miles with Chavis’s family, friends and supporters to the police department in downtown Jonesboro, Ark., to restate demands for justice and security.

“In the hands of police custody you should be secure, not in jeopardy. What should have been an oasis of security became a pit of hell. He was killed in police custody. No matter how many ways that they try to convince us that he was guilty, he was not Houdini,” Rev. Jackson said.


Follow-up News:

US judge clears Arkansas police officers in backseat suicide
2 March 2017

Judge dismisses much of lawsuit over Chavis Carter’s in custody suicide
9 September 2016

Too many questions in handcuff suicide, say attorney, activists seeking truth about death of Chavis Carter
4 September 2012

Lab denies claims that Chavis Carter’s cause of death was ruled a suicide
22 August 2012

Suicide ruling doesn’t end questions in Chavis Carter case
21 August 2012

Chavis Carter footage released amid questions in alleged police car suicide
18 August 2012

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