Carter’s case still unsettled

by Stacey Oparnica

The bizarre case of 21-year-old Chavis Carter, who authorities say shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a police car, prompted numerous questions about the legitimacy of the Jonesboro Police Department’s investigation of the incident.

According to the police report, Carter and two others were pulled over by officers Ron Marsh and Keith Bagget for driving around suspiciously. At around 10 p.m. on July 28 in Jonesboro, Ark. Carter was Terry frisked, or patted down, by Bagget, who according to the report found no weapon and took him to the back of Marsh’s police vehicle.

According to the report, after he and Marsh learned Carter had an active warrant out of Desoto County, Miss., Carter was searched a second time by Marsh, who found $10 worth of marijuana on him, but still no weapon.

Baggett’s report reads Carter was then handcuffed and again placed in the back seat of Marsh’s patrol unit.

Baggett wrote in the police report that he heard “a loud thump with a metallic sound,” shortly after, but thought a passing car had run over a piece of metal.

Marsh wrote that it wasn’t until he entered his patrol car and noticed a “burned smell” that Carter was slumped over in the backseat, unresponsive and covered in blood. A .380 caliber handgun, as well as a used cartridge, was reportedly found on the seat next to him. According to Baggett’s report, Carter was still breathing and taken to St. Bernards Regional Medical Center, where he died shortly after.

The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory has ruled the death a suicide.

Carter’s mother, Teresa Carter, does not believe he committed suicide. Carter was shot in the right temple, but Teresa claims her son was left-handed.

Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates said the case “defies logic at first glance” and told The Associated Press, “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.”

However, many comments in online news articles have been posted concerning the incident, asking how it was possible Marsh and Baggett found a small amount of marijuana, but no gun. They also asked how Carter was able to shoot himself in the head while handcuffed behind his back.

In response, the Jonesboro Police Department released a “reenactment video” to demonstrate that it is indeed possible for someone to hold a gun to their head while handcuffed behind the back.

Yates said both Marsh and Baggett were placed on paid administrative leave and have since returned to work.

Jonesboro Police Sgt. Lyle Waterworth said the department will not make any statements regarding the case.