Death of handcuffed man in Ark. a suicide

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A man whose hands were cuffed behind him in the back seat of an Arkansas patrol car shot himself in the right temple with a handgun he apparently concealed from arresting officers, according to an autopsy report released Monday that listed the death as a suicide.

The state crime lab report, signed by three medical examiners, said the muzzle of a gun was placed against Chavis Carter’s head when it was fired. Jonesboro police released the report under a Freedom of Information Act request.

A toxicology report said Carter tested positive for methamphetamine, the antianxiety medication diazepam, and the painkiller oxycodone. His urine tested positive for marijuana but not alcohol.


The autopsy ruled the death a suicide based on autopsy findings and investigative conclusions from the Jonesboro Police Department, which has faced questions from Carter’s family and community members about the circumstances surrounding the July 28 shooting.

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‘‘He was cuffed and placed into a police car, where apparently he produced a weapon, and despite being handcuffed, shot himself in the head,’’ the report said. Charles P. Kokes, the chief medical examiner, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Police have said officers frisked Carter, 21, twice after a traffic stop without finding a gun before he was fatally shot, but the department’s internal investigation continues.

The FBI also is monitoring the case and the local branch of the NAACP has called for a thorough investigation into the death of Carter, who was black. Two other men who were in a truck with him during the stop and the two officers on the scene are white, according to police.

Dozens of supporters gathered Monday night outside the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was slain to pray for Carter. The vigil outside the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis came hours after police released the autopsy report.


Just days ago, police released dashboard camera video recorded the night Carter was shot in Jonesboro, about 130 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Part of the video showed Carter being patted down, but it ended before officers found Carter slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car, as was described in a police report. Police later released additional video they said was recorded after Carter was found.

Neither clip included the moment they say Carter shot himself, and the footage did little to resolve questions about how the shooting could have happened.

Associated Press