Despite Suicide Ruling, Chavis Carter Death Remains Controversial

Many question how Carter, who was Black, could have concealed a .380-caliber Cobra semiautomatic pistol from police officers who searched him twice.

Posted: 08/22/2012 03:50 PM EDT
Chavis Carter on a T-shirt

Despite the fact that Chavis Carter’s death was ruled a suicide by officials in Arkansas, there are many who remain troubled by the case of the 21-year-old Arkansas man who died while in police custody.

In fact, the local branch of the NAACP has called for a complete investigation. Also, the FBI has said it is monitoring the case. Additionally, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said he will travel to Memphis to lead Carter’s family in a prayer vigil. 

Benjamin A. Irwin, a lawyer for the Cochran Firm, which is representing Carter’s family, criticized the autopsy report, which he said was biased by the police version of the events. 

A month ago, Carter was picked up by police when officers stopped a truck in which he was riding after receiving a report of a suspicious vehicle. Carter was arrested after officers discovered his outstanding arrest warrant related to a drug charge in Mississippi. The officers say they frisked and handcuffed Carter before placing him in the back seat of the police cruiser where he died of a gunshot wound to the head.

But apparently it has been difficult for many to accept the police version of the story — that Carter, who was Black, somehow shot himself in the head with his own gun while sitting in the back seat of a police car after having been searched by police officers.

One major issue has been the police assertion that Carter somehow concealed a .380-caliber Cobra semiautomatic pistol from police officers who have said they searched him on two occasions before placing him in a police vehicle.

"At the time of discharge, the muzzle of the gun was placed against the right temporal scalp," wrote Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Stephen A. Erickson. But he said that it doesn’t rule out the possibility that Carter’s death might have been caused by something other than a suicide.

Toxicology reports also determined that Carter had anti-anxiety medication, methamphetamine and other drugs in his system at the time of his death.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

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