Former Deputy Charged With Manslaughter In Arkansas Teenager's Death
A former Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a teenager during a traffic stop in June.
Family and friends of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain cheered during a press conference Friday when a special prosecutor announced an arrest warrant had been issued for former Sgt. Michael Davis. Davis was fired by the sheriff's office for failing to turn on his body camera until after he shot Brittain.
Special prosecutor Jeff Phillips said Davis “acted recklessly in his behavior when he discharged his firearm.” If convicted, Davis could face three-to-10 years in prison.
His attorney Robert Newcomb said Davis will plead not guilty and called it a “tragic event.” Davis turned himself in midday Friday, according to Arkansas State Police, and will remain in custody at least until Monday when a bond hearing is scheduled.
The white teenager’s death drew the attention of nationally-known civil rights activists Rev. Al Sharpton, Benjamin Crump and Devon M. Davis, who said this case highlights the need for police reforms. Beginning on the day of the shooting, hundreds of people began holding regular demonstrations outside the sheriff’s office, sometimes chanting “no justice, no peace.”
Rev. Sharpton gave the eulogy at Brittain’s funeral on July 7, saying “I want his family to know that we don’t come for just one race, we come for what’s right.”
Details about the traffic stop south of Cabot outside an auto repair shop were included in an affidavit released Friday. The report said after being pulled over by Davis around 3 a.m. on June 23, the teen exited his truck and walked toward the back of his vehicle, which was rolling in the direction of Davis’ patrol vehicle.
Family members have said Brittain had been working late into the night making repairs to the truck and was giving it a test drive when the deputy pulled him over. The brakes weren’t working correctly and he was getting a can of antifreeze to place behind one of the wheels.
During an investigation into the shooting by Arkansas State Police, Davis said he gave several commands for Brittain to show his hands, which were not obeyed. Instead, Brittain reached with both hands into the bed of the truck and, as he began to pull his hands out, Davis fired one round, hitting Brittain in the lower right neck. Phillips said that after Brittain was injured, Davis said he saw a container hit the ground that had been in the bed of the truck.
“During the interview, Davis was asked to clarify if he could see Brittain’s hands or see what was in Brittain’s hands prior to discharging his county-issued firearm,” Phillips said. “Davis replied he could not see Brittain’s hands nor what was in his hands.”
According to Phillips, the passenger in the vehicle, Jordan King, said he heard no such commands before the gunshot.
The teenager was then transported to Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock where he later died.
“There was no evidence of firearms located in or around Brittain’s truck and there never has been, since the investigation,” Phillips said.
Three weeks after the shooting, Phillips was named special prosecutor in the case. He is the prosecuting attorney for the 5th Judicial District of Arkansas, which includes Franklin, Johnson and Pope counties.
Phillips urged the crowd of Brittain’s supporters at Friday's press conference to keep an open mind.
“The affidavit with the arrest warrant is merely an allegation by the state of Arkansas. It is a charging document only. It does not confirm guilt, only a jury can do that,” he said.