Chavis Carter

Arkansas Coroner Rules Chavis Carter Committed Suicide by Shooting Himself in the Head While Handcuffed


For the past several weeks, the media has been buzzing with the question of whether it's possible (or probable) that 21-year-old Chavis Carter committed suicide while handcuffed in the backseat of a Jonesboro, AR, police cruiser. Now, it seems that the Craighead County Coroner's Office has made its decision — this was suicide. Ballistics tests and and an FBI investigation are forthcoming, and the released dashcam footage is frustratingly inconclusive, though the chief of police Michael Yates says the footage and witness testimonies "tend to support" the police claims that Carter shot himself. One police officer expresses confusion as to where Carter got the gun after he has apparently shot himself, adding credence to the police's story.

The coroner,whose report was released to the press after a Freedom of Information Act request, concluded that Carter's cause of death:

Perforating gunshot wound of head, going through the right temporal scalp and skull, right and left frontal temporal brain, exiting left temporal skull and scalp.  Perforating gunshot wound of head, going through the right temporal scalp and skull, right and left frontal temporal brain, exiting left temporal skull and scalp.  


Path:  Primarily right to left, with small backward and downward deviation. 

Since the July 29 incident, Jonesboro police have "reenacted" how Carter, or other people of varying heights and builds, could have shot themselves in the head while cuffed. Still, there's a lingering racial paranoia here, considering that Carter was black and the officers were white, and that just happens when a black male dies in police custody. Carter's mother continues to say that her son was left handed, making his supposed suicide by gunshot to the right temple even more unlikely.

Even if the police story checks out, it's still frustrating that Carter ended up being arrested for "suspicious driving" and then detained for giving police a fake name in order to disguise the notion that he had slipped away from a Mississippi drug deferment program…for one count of selling marijuana. Carter may not have been pure as the driven snow, he may even have stolen the gun that killed him, since it was reported as such a month before, but even so, he didn't need to be in the back of that car at all. It's hard not to wistfully think that with no drug war, the cops would always have bigger criminals to fry.

And, it's hard to ignore a few of the other questions on the coroner's report, namely whether or not Carter had gunshot residue on his hands (still unresolved), and the simple fact that "the manner of death is based on both autopsy findings and the investigative conclusions of the Jonesboro Police Department." It's unsettling when police departments investigate themselves. But even if this is no dramatic cover-up, it's surely some serious negligence. Jonesboro police should seriously reconsider bringing back the officers responsible for searching Carter at least.

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  1. Just enough uncertainty mixed in to make sure no one knows what really happened.

    Excellent work, Jonesboro Police Department.

  2. Has anyone even tried to explain why he would have supposedly killed himself? A young guy, busted on relatively minor charges, kills himself over it while handcuffed in the back of a police car? No one has asked this question?

    1. He was on drugs. What other explanation is necessary?

    2. Here’s how it works. The police say one thing, and to disprove what they say requires a mountain of evidence, video, eye-witness (the right eye-witnesses) and a perfectly innocent victim that never did anything to anyone and is preferably white. If you contradict the police statement, all the evidence we need to disprove what you’ve said is that the police disagree with it.

      But there’s no double standard.

      1. “Police say that Mr. Nutra J Sweet then lunged at the officers, screaming ‘I will rape your children and tear out your testicles with fishhooks!’, who were then forced to shoot, killing Mr. Sweet. When asked, family members said that that sounded entirely plausible, and that additionally, he was probably high on glucose.”

        1. ‘I will rape your children (but not forcible rape) and tear out your testicles with fishhooks!’


          1. I was planning on drugging them senseless. I’m not a monster.

            1. “Say, does this smell like chloroform to you?”

              1. “Say, does this smell like chloroform to you?”

                How dare you steal my pickup line!

            2. The hell you aren’t! You didn’t extend me that courtesy!

    3. The flip side of that is why would two police officers stage a suicide of a low level offender in such a bizarre and suspicious way.

      As a general rule suicides rarely have a rational reason.

      1. The only thing I can think of, if we go with this not being a cover-up, is that they failed to frisk him, and he was trying to stuff the gun into the seat so he wasn’t caught with it later, and accidentally brushed the trigger and the gun happened to be at the perfect angle to strike him in the temple when it went off.

        But that is a hell of a stretch.

        1. The problem with that scenario is the downward angle of the bullet. He’d have to be laying on the seat, with his arms twisted up by his head, somehow getting the gun slightly above his temple.

          I just don’t think that’s physically possible.

      2. There are hundreds of ways that this could have been the officer’s fault without assuming a huge conspiracy.

        It’s the sort of double standard that is the problem. If someone riding in the back of your car was shot through the temple, you saying it was suicide would be taken at face value. And you sure would have been able to have your friends and family do the investigation into the incident and be the final word.

  3. I wouldn’t worry too much about the gunshot residue, the test is pretty much useless.

    1. Can you elaborate?

      1. I can try. This is based on my personal experience from working in a prosecutors office. If you test someone right after they fire a weapon you will probably find some trace of the compounds found in gunpowder. However, the residue wears off relatively quickly, especially if you are sweating and rubbing your hands on things. It also picks up particulates, like lead, from other sources.

        1. This is if it picks up anything at all which is far from a given.

        2. Suicides dont tend to rub their hands on things after shooting themselves.

          1. She asked me to elaborate so I did.

      2. I’m not going to speak for RBS, but GSR tests seem to operate like lie detectors. If the GSR test proves the police’s assertions, the test is claimed 100% accurate, if it doesn’t “These sort of tests are inconclusive a lot of the time.”

        1. Pretty much. I’m convinced the only reason they use it is because juries expect some sort of “science” or CSI type shit. I’ve seen a lot of convictions and none of them really turned on whether there was GSR or not.

    2. I wouldn’t worry too much about the gunshot residue, the test is pretty much useless.

      That statement alone is cause for worry.

  4. Primarily right to left, with small backward and downward deviation.

    Uh-oh. Even if he did manage to contort himself so that he could shoot himself in the head while handcuffed (behind his back), I’m having a really hard time seeing how he would get the gun to shoot at a slight downward angle. The slight backward angle, maybe, but downward?

    1. The Oliver Stone theory of ballistics?

      1. Back…and to the left.

    2. In the police demonstrations, with really loose cuffs almost to the elbows, and a craned neck and body, they were able to point the pistol such that that kind of wound was theoretically possible.

      1. Watching the dashcam, they appear to tighten the white kids cuffs hard enough for him to wince. But Carter is cuffed off-cam.

      2. Since when do cops cuff suspects as loosely as they did in that video?

    3. Because he was Plastic Man and was trying to frame these brave officers.

      1. That’s stupid. He was Mister Fantastic.

        1. Mr. Fantastic is just a character in a comic book, asshole.

          1. Are you telling me Reed Richards isn’t real? Does that mean Sue Storm isn’t real, and therefore, by extension, Jessica Alba isn’t real? Please god no.

    4. Because his head was tilted towards one side?

    5. Could it be a ricochet? A bullet that richocets immediately after firing can still contain enough momentum to kill.

      1. Not a ballistics expert but I would be surprised if a bullet had enough force to get through his head all the way after a bounce. I could be wrong about that, though.

        1. In About Face, Col Hackworth tells the story of a 2nd Lt in Korea who shot his Jeep (prob with a .45) after it broke down and was killed when the bullet reflected almost perpendicularly off the wheel rim and nailed him between the eyes.

          If bouncing almost 180 degrees off its original path it still killed a guy, I think at shallower angles it would have been deadly too.

          1. Sorry, when I said “through”, I meant “exit”.

    6. “I’m having a really hard time seeing how he would get the gun to shoot at a slight downward angle.”

      Imagine not being able to move your hands all the way up but being able to move your head down. Don’t see how it’s implausible at all.

      1. You still have to get the gun above your temple and pointing toward the opposite ear, say.

        Even if you’re bending your head down, the relative position and angle of the gun to your head is still the same. If you’re bending over and to the side, you still have to get your handcuffed hands well out in front of your body for that scenario to work.

        Hella awkward, if possible at all.

    7. Maybe he was trying to ditch the gun in the back seat of the cop car (like they wouldn’t find it there anyway) and he had craned his head around to his right and down over his shoulder to try to see what he was doing(?) Perhaps this put his head at an angle such that the bullet went in at a slight downward and backward direction relative to his head position. IOW, perhaps the bullet trajectory was at some upward angle, but his head was in a position such that it appears to have gone in at a different angle.

      It’s hard to tell without other ballistics evidence that appears to be missing here. What path did the bullet take after it left the left side of his head? Did it go out the left side window of the cop car? If so that would throw this scenario out the window. Through the car’s roof or embedded in the roof liner (depending on how much energy was left after passing through his head)? The full flight path of the bullet would tell you more about the orientation of his head and neck at the time, which is a key variable that seems to be missing here.

  5. Has anyone seen any information on the gun? Was it ever, I don’t know, purchased legally? Evidence in another police case? Anything? It seems like the provenance of the gun could sort this out right fast.

  6. “he had slipped away from a Mississippi drug deferment program…for one count of selling marijuana.”

    Marijuana takes another life. So sad.

  7. Arkansas isn’t AK.

    1. D’oh! Fixing.

    2. They dont teach postal abbreviations at home school.

      1. Lucy hates postal abbreviations for what the post office did to Lysander Spooner. I can’t fault her for that, either.

          1. She is literally speechless.

          2. I tried to give you a three and a bracket thingie for a heart, but the Gods/squirrels intervened.

            1. Now you know how we feel everyday.

              1. Now you know how we feel everyday.

                FREE THE AMPERSANDS!

            2. Not even an (associate) editor is immune. Personally, I think you all would have loved the ASCII art I did of NutraSweet eating a two-headed puppy, but the security measures now prevent me from posting it.

            3. bracket thingie

              Less than sign?

              1. They dont teach postal abbreviations operator names at home school.

                1. And apparently they missed apostrophes where you was learned.

              2. No, bracket thingie. She has an irregularly-shaped heart, you insensitive clod!

            4. ?3

              Works for me. I didn’t think I had superpowers…yet.

              1. What the fuck is that thing?

                1. It’s that Internet Cloud thingy all the kids are always talking about.

  8. even so, he didn’t need to be in the back of that car at all.

    That’s crazy talk. Once the officer has reasonable suspicion gets that tingly feeling, the perp must be detained and immediately obey any manner of coercive demands. And if he fails to obey, then KAPOW!
    Procedures: followed. Dominance: maintained. Officer safety: protected.

  9. “the manner of death is based on both autopsy findings and the investigative conclusions of the Jonesboro Police Department.”

    The autopsy conclusively showed he was as dead as the Wicked Witch. The police were in charge of the story.

  10. then detained for giving police a fake name

    So, was he arrested (and died) because of Hiibel?

    Thanks again, Clarence Thomas.

  11. Being cuffed behind your back can easily be brought to the front by someone who is young and flexible. After that, suicide would be easy.

    1. He was still cuffed behind his back at the time of death. That’s why they have jumped through all the hoops to prove that what they say he did is even remotely possible. Because if it is even remotely possible, then that’s what happened because it fits with the officers’ story and police are to be believed with the thinnest shred of excuse.

    2. Why would he kill himself? Why is this question not the first thing being asked? Why do you take the police version at face value if no one first answers why?

      1. Why would the police kill him?

        1. I don’t know, but we have seen police in other situations kill people. Why did the SPD officer kill the woodcarver guy? I have no idea, but he did, and in just a few seconds.

          A suicide seems more of a stretch than a police shooting.

        2. I don’t know, but we have seen police in other situations kill people. Why did the SPD officer kill the woodcarver guy? I have no idea, but he did, and in just a few seconds.

          A suicide seems more of a stretch than a police shooting.

      2. I think it was an accident, but Damfino how it could happen.

  12. If the police were trying to cover up that they shot this dude in the back seat of a police car I’m sure they could fabricate a more “plausible” reason than that he did it himself.

    1. No kidding. That’s my thought.

    2. Like what? Let’s say they were fucking around and shot him. What else to they really have except the time-honored tradition of throwdown gun? He was shot by a random bullet? He had been shot earlier and they didn’t notice it while frisking him?

      The choice isn’t “he killed himself with a contortionists act” and “they executed him.” There is a continuum of wrong doing in between.

      But we’ll never know. And any doubt gets rounded up to the police being right.

      1. Like what?

        He managed to overpower the officers and ran.

        It doesn’t look like there is camera footage, so if there is a conspiracy among four officers and the ME, you’d think they could do a better job here.

        1. If he was shot in the car, what are they going to do, go full-on Weekend at Bernie’s? The blood is already in the car. And trust me, someone being shot in the head delivers a tremendous amount of blood.

          And as NutraSweet said, this is literally a perfect level of uncertainty.

          1. At a minimum, you physically move his hands to the front of his body so it looks like he got them there on his own. That wouldn’t be hard to do.

    3. They were in a hurry and picked excuse 423c. Unfortunately for them, it’s not an excuse that seems to work, as shown in this incident:…..dq=michael taylor jrpg=978,3659972

      1. Well, nuts. That link certainly didn’t work out. Here’s the tiny version:

  13. FWIW, the linked coroner’s report mentions that their opinion is that the gunshot wound was a contact one. Wouldn’t he have to be awfully limber to be able to place the muzzle against his temple, while he was handcuffed? The wound being a contact one, makes it much less likely, in my opinion, to be a “He shot Marvin in the face!” situation.

    Though, how about a fake execution gone awry, if we’re determined to come up with weird alternate explanations? I wonder if the investigators also tested the officers for gunshot residue? Also, I didn’t think it took anywhere near this long for a GSR test, so can we infer by the silence that none was found on Mr. Carter’s hands?

    Agree with SF that TPTB would take a much more jaundiced view of the situation if this happened to three non-cops, with one of them turning up dead in the back seat of your car… “But, he must have killed himself, Officer! We didn’t hear nuthin’!”

  14. The autopsy report comes days after police released dashboard camera video recorded the night Carter was shot. Part of the video showed Carter being patted down and 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 included the moment they say Carter shot himself, and the footage did little to resolve questions about how the shooting could have happened.…..story.html

    How convenient!

    1. That is a hell of a gap in the tape. Did they switch off the video recorders, and then switch them back on after they found him?

      1. Let’s say you’re taping, say, your convenience store. And you switch the tape off, and then hey presto, somebody catches a bullet in circumstances when it is highly unlikely they actually shot themselves, and you turn the tape back on.

        How is the very convenient gap not going to look very suspicious?

  15. As an Arkansan let me say – if the medical experts in this state say something happened a certain way, you can bet your ass that’s how it happened.

    Also, the exact opposite of what I just said.

  16. He hid the gun, and then laid over on his side to take a nap, and it went off.


    1. “Hid the gun” where? And where was it when he was being searched?

  17. And, it’s hard to ignore a few of the other questions on the coroner’s report, namely whether or not Carter had gunshot residue on his hands (still unresolved),

    In such a situation, the arresting officers should be tested for gunshot residue on their hands.

    Higher standards, meet police department.

  18. Wait, the autopsy report is done, but it’s “unresolved” if he had gunpowder residue on his hands? That’s part of the friggin autopsy. What kind of Bozo coroner they got there? Just because the “angle” may be possible, doesn’t mean squat. I still don’t see someone handcuffed behind their back shooting themselves in the temple. Na. It’s a load.

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