(NEW YORK) — Jonesboro, Ark., police released 41 minutes of dash cam video as questions continue to swirl about how someone in police custody could shoot and kill himself in the back of a cop car after being searched twice and handcuffed.
In the video, 21-year-old Chavis Carter can be seen being restrained and you can hear him being questioned by police officers, but the video appears to end before the fatal shot was fired.
The release of the dash cam video comes after Jonesboro police released a video this week of officers re-enacting how someone could commit suicide while restrained and in the back of a cop car. Also included in the release were witness statements that back up the police account.
In a statement Jonesboro police say “given the heightened sensitivity regarding this investigation, we felt it important that these witness accounts be made public.”
The family of Carter, an African-American, and many in the town speculate that Carter may have been killed by police. The two officers who pulled over the vehicle were white. The case has led to a rise of tensions in Jonesboro, vigils and an online effort calling for a more thorough investigation into the actions of police on the night of July 29.
Police say Carter was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car after they learned he had a warrant out of Mississippi. Police say when they first pulled up to the car that he was in, the other two inside gave their identities but Carter identified himself as Laryan Bowman.
But in the dash cam video police released you can hear Carter spelling his name. Police say Carter was found with a small amount of marijuana and some small plastic bags commonly used to package drugs in his pocket.
Police say they then put Carter in the back of a police car as they interviewed the other two, both white, who were with him. Although police found drug paraphernalia underneath the seat where one of the two was sitting both were released. In the video you can see them drive off. Police say when they returned to their vehicles to leave with Carter in custody they noticed him slumped over and that he shot himself with a gun that he had concealed. The video appears to end before this account occurs.
One of the witnesses, Jamie Anderson told officers she noticed the pickup truck driving around suspiciously and saw when police stopped the vehicle. She said she saw police officers separate Carter from others and 15 minutes after she heard a loud pop.
Anderson told an officer the police car windows that Chavis was in were closed and that the officers “were standing outside of the car when I heard a pop.” When asked about news accounts and the belief by some that police killed Carter, Anderson shook her head in disapproval, and said she did not believe that.
Another witness, Jason Parmenter, was at a friend’s house playing cards when he says they got a call from Anderson saying that she saw a white pickup car driving around suspiciously and parked in front of her house. Parmenter says his friend called police and he watched as officers arrived on scene and as the three were initially placed in handcuffs. Later, he says he watched as someone in a plain car drove up and talked to officers while Chavis was in the cop car. He says when that person drove away he later watched officers scurrying back and forth between their cars.
Carter suffered a gunshot wound to the right temple. Police said “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).”
In a statement to ABC News provided just before the release of the video Benjamin Irwin, the attorney for Carter’s mom continued to doubt the police account.
“How is it that a trained officer of the law can search a young man not just once, but twice, handcuff him, place in the back of your squad car and if he had a handgun not detect it. They are either completely incompetent or they are not being completely truthful about what truly happened.” They also say that Carter was not suicidal.
Police say they are still awaiting the complete autopsy report as well as forensics. The FBI is also monitoring the case.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Amanda Watts, CNN
Jennifer Graham, Deseret News