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Trial begins for Arkansas deputy in teen's fatal shooting

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KATV-TV
Former Lonoke County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Michael Davis walks out of court after the first day of his trial.

The body camera footage of the moments after an Arkansas deputy fatally shot a white teenager during a traffic stop were shown publicly for the first time Tuesday as the deputy’s manslaughter trial began.

Michael Davis, a former sergeant with the Lonoke County sheriff’s office, faces between three and 10 years in prison if he’s convicted in the shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. Davis, who is white, has pleaded not guilty. Brittain’s killing has drawn the attention of national civil rights leaders and activists.

Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday shortly after a jury of nine women and three men was seated for Davis’ trial.

Davis shot Brittain during a June 23 traffic stop outside an auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a city of about 26,000 people roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday that the body camera footage showed Brittain’s body being turned over, which caused multiple family members of the teen to leave the courtroom. The newspaper reported Davis can be heard saying that the teen jumped out of his truck and grabbed an oil can.

The video ended with Davis sitting alone in a police vehicle and audibly crying, the newspaper reported.

Davis was fired by Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in July for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting occurred. Staley said there’s no footage from the shooting, only the aftermath.

Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck after the teen reached into the back of his truck and did not comply with his commands to show his hands, according to the arrest affidavit. Brittain was holding a container — which his family members have said held antifreeze — and no evidence of firearms were found in or near the truck, the affidavit said.

A passenger with Brittain said he and the teen had been working on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger told investigators he never heard Davis tell the teen to show his hands.

Brittain was eulogized last year by the Rev. Al Sharpton and two attorneys who represented George Floyd’s family. They said the teen’s death highlighted the need for interracial support for changes in policing. Brittain’s family and friends have regularly demonstrated outside the Lonoke County sheriff’s office, demanding more details on the shooting.

Floyd died in May 2020 when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin the handcuffed Black man’s neck to the ground. His death sparked nationwide protests over policing and racial inequality.

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