A Lonoke County, Arkansas, deputy who shot and killed an unarmed teen during an early morning traffic stop in June has been fired for not recording the encounter on his body camera, the county's sheriff said Thursday.
In a video posted on Facebook, Sheriff John Staley announced that the deputy, Sgt. Michael Davis, did not turn on his body camera as department policy requires when he stopped 17-year-old Hunter Brittain near Cabot, Arkansas, at around 3 a.m. on June 23.
Brittain had been attempting to repair a truck and had been driving away from a nearby body shop when Davis pulled him over. What happened next comes from an account by Jordan King, 16, who was in the truck with Brittain. The brakes on the truck did not work properly, so Brittain exited the truck with a bottle of antifreeze after stopping for Davis, with the intent to prop it behind a rear tire of the truck to keep it from rolling back and striking the deputy's vehicle.
While Brittain was attempting to do this, Davis fired on the teen, killing him. According to King, Davis never ordered Brittain to stop or get on the ground—the deputy just shot him.
The encounter grew into a national news story as Brittain's family demanded answers for why the boy was shot. Staley on his part promised transparency and said he wanted the body camera footage—which had been handed over to the Arkansas State Police for an investigation—to be publicly released.
On Thursday, Staley, while also complaining about the angry responses and threats his department has gotten since the story has blown up, revealed that because Davis did not turn on his camera until after he shot Brittain, there isn't footage of what preceded the shooting. Because of that, he decided to fire Davis.
Whining about people being rude on social media notwithstanding, Staley likely made the right choice here. It will be up to state prosecutors to decide whether to charge Davis with a crime.
Brittain's family has now retained Ben Crump and Devon Jacob, the attorneys who have also represented the family of George Floyd, to represent them. The duo put out a statement Thursday night praising Staley for firing the deputy and adding, "Body cameras are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the only way to see the unbiased facts surrounding a police and civilian encounter resulting in injury and/or death. When officers turn their body cameras off, they turn off their intent to be transparent along with it. While nothing can bring Hunter back, our team stands in solidarity with the Brittain family, and we plan to help them attain full justice for the heartbreaking and preventable loss they are experiencing."