08/28/2012

Ark. cop to be reprimanded after in-car death

An internal investigation found Officer Ron Marsh didn't conduct a thorough enough search of 21-year-old Chavis Carter

By Jeannie Nuss
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas police officer who twice frisked a man who authorities say subsequently shot himself to death while handcuffed in a patrol car has returned to active duty but must undergo more training and face an official reprimand.

Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates said Tuesday that an internal investigation found Officer Ron Marsh didn't conduct a thorough enough search of 21-year-old Chavis Carter before Carter's July 28 shooting death. An autopsy determined that Carter shot himself in the head. His family and activists have demanded more answers.

Marsh and another officer who stopped the truck in which Carter was a passenger that day were placed on paid administrative leave soon after the shooting, but Yates said they have returned to work.

Marsh didn't immediately return a message left at the police department.

Police said the two searches of Carter turned up a small amount of marijuana but no gun. Questions about race have cropped up, too, because Carter was black and police have said Marsh and the other officer involved are white.

Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis, Tenn., lawyer representing Carter's family said he found it troubling that Marsh was returning to work so soon.

The internal investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of the other officer, Keith Baggett, Yates said.

Statements from eyewitnesses, text messages and video and physical evidence established that Baggett didn't violate any policy or procedure, Yates said.

"Based upon these facts and circumstances I made the decision to return them to active duty status," Yates said in an email.

Police said an investigation into Carter's death and drug-trafficking associated with the case is ongoing. The FBI has said it is monitoring the case.

Authorities said they presume Carter hid the gun in the back of the patrol car after the first pat-down, before he was handcuffed and searched again.

Police previously released video recorded from dashboard cameras the night of the shooting, but the footage didn't appear to show when officers found Carter slumped over and bleeding in the backseat of a patrol car as described in a police report.

Authorities said there were problems with the audio and video that explain the absence of a gunshot or noise on the recordings, though the lawyer for Carter's family hasn't accepted that explanation.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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