Jonesboro Police released the following report today on last weekend's in custody death of Chavis Chacobie Carter:
On July 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm a Jonesboro Police Officer was dispatched to Haltom St. in Jonesboro, Ar., a residential "side-street", regarding a suspicious vehicle. The caller described the vehicle as suspicious and that it was "riding up and down" the street. When the officer arrived he located a vehicle matching the description relayed by the 911 center. Upon making contact with the driver his driver's license and identity were validated. A second passenger, a 19 year old adult was also identified and confirmation of his identity was established. A third passenger (later identified as Chavis Chacobie Carter) was also contacted who gave the officer the name of "Laryan Bowman". This identity could not be confirmed via the law enforcement computer system. Given the facts and circumstances of the call and the residential nature of the street where the vehicle was spotted and the fact that the vehicle was observed driving down the street with its lights off the original officer requested an additional back-up officer to assist. Within a few minutes the second officer arrived and the individuals were asked to exit the vehicle. Due to the suspicious nature of the stop each occupant was "frisked" or "patted down", not necessarily a full search at this point because they did not know what they had nor if any arrests were to be made. A small amount of marijuana and some small plastic bags commonly used to package drugs were discovered in Carter's pocket at this time.
After this initial contact was made the individual whose identity was un-established (Carter A.K.A. Laryan Bowman) was escorted to the back-up unit and placed in the rear of the car without hand-cuffs. The second officer then spoke with this subject who revealed to him his real name Chavis Chacobie Carter. At this point he was left in the police unit as the officers confirmed his identity and learned that he had an active warrant out of Mississippi. Contact was reestablished with the driver and other passenger. The driver gave the first responding officer consent to search his vehicle. A search of the vehicle by the officers revealed a set of electronic scales, residual marijuana and a quart sized zip lock bag containing about 3-4 ounces of white crystalline powder (suspected to be sugar). Upon discovery of the items and confirmation of the warrant the back-up officer returned to his vehicle where Carter was detained (un-handcuffed), removed him from the vehicle cuffed him behind his back and searched his person again. Carter was then returned to the rear of the second police unit.
The officer then went to the front of the first police unit interviewed the driver and middle passenger further and, having no drugs and no active warrants they were released. As the officers then returned to their vehicles to leave the second officer entered his vehicle and noted the smell of something burning (gun smoke we believe) and noticed Carter slumped over on the passenger side of the police unit. The officer then opened the rear door and noticed Carter unresponsive with a quantity of blood on him. At this point he ran to the other officer to prevent him from leaving and both officers returned to the second unit, opened both doors and began to attempt to assist Carter (who was still handcuffed behind his back) and summoned an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and transported Carter to the hospital where he died a short time later.
Investigators were called to the scene and began processing the evidence, photographing and securing evidence. A small .380 caliber cobra semi-auto firearm was discovered, as well as an expended case, and a projectile (which was recovered in the rear of the vehicle). This evidence was packaged and has been sent to the state crime lab. The firearm had previously been reported stolen by a resident in Jonesboro ( June 2012). Investigative action is still in process on many fronts. As recently as yesterday a number of witnesses to the incident have been located and interviewed. These witness statements are consistent with the statements of the officers and the evidence reflected by the dash-cam video of the responding officer along with audio evidence from the back-up officer. The statements and video/audio evidence account for the officers actions from the beginning of the stop until the arrival of the ambulance and indicate that neither officer removed his weapon, fired a shot or was in a position to enter the vehicle where Carter was detained in a manner that would allow for them to injure Carter. We continue to search for additional witnesses as we speak and anticipate further investigation in this area.
The windows on the patrol unit where Carter was detained were up and intact indicating no possibility of a bullet penetrating from the outside of the patrol unit while Carter was detained. Specifically, how Carter suffered his apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound remains unexplained and investigation of this part of the investigations continues given the unusual nature of this event.
The Jonesboro Police Department has been in contact with the FBI and they have agreed to monitor the case and we (JPD) are sharing investigative material with them at every stage of the investigation. Once the autopsy results are reviewed a reconstruction of the incident will take place in hopes that a plausible explanation to this matter can be reached. The evidence and reconstruction results will guide our efforts to determine the nature and cause of this tragic event. Investigation will continue until all the facts and circumstances are explained and we will continue our efforts until such resolution is complete. We await autopsy results and crime lab results for further review all of which will guide our actions as results become available.
A forensic examination of Carter's cell phone has been completed by the JPD ICAC Unit and a review has revealed text messages related to this incident indicating that Carter may have been in possession of a gun while engaging in drug related activity a short time before his encounter with the police.
*Note: This is an administrative summary of the incident and is not by any means comprehensive. It is intended to give all parties an update of the case but does not include all the details and/or evidentiary material. At this point the investigation continues and it is recognized that all possibilities have not been exhausted which means that the case is neither complete nor closed and could change direction with any possibility the evidence and/or witnesses might disclose.
Original story (August 2):
An Arkansas mother is demanding answers as to how her son ended up dead in the back of a police car.
Jonesboro Police say the man shot himself in the head - while handcuffed.
But his mother is challenging that account of what happened.
"I can't see how. I can't see how," she says.
Teresa Carter just doesn't understand what happened to her son Chavis in the back of a police car in Jonesboro.
Officers say he had drugs on him when they picked him up, and that he'd missed a court date on more drug charges.
What happened next is where the confusion starts.
"As protocol he was handcuffed behind his back and double locked, and searched," says Jonesboro Police Sgt. Lyle Waterworth.
But somehow minutes later, police say they heard a thumping noise, turned around and found Chavis dead from a gunshot wound to the head in the back of the squad car.
"Any given officer has missed something on a search, be it drugs, be it knives, be it razor blades. This instance happened to be a gun," Sgt. Waterworth admits.
They're still investigating, but they think Chavis, while handcuffed in a squad car, somehow managed to pull out a hidden gun and shoot himself in the head.
Carter's mother has a different idea of what happened.
"I think they killed him, my son wasn't suicidal," she says.
In fact she says he called his girlfriend while pulled over to say he would call her shortly from jail. She also says she was told her son was shot in his right temple, but he was left handed. She says it just doesn't add up.
"They searched him twice. I just want to know what really happened. That's all I want to know," she says.
Police say they're still investigating and haven't ruled out the possibility that someone else may have shot Chavis Carter.
The officer involved is on leave while they investigate.