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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sketchy story 

Long time readers know, the Clarion Content always has our radar on for any signs of police malfeasance. This is because the police in many places continue to espouse an ethic that is less "protect and serve" and more "enforcement." This combined with our philosophical distrust for government and the terrible imbalance in the power dynamic between cops and citizens makes us hyper-alert.

One such story crossed our scopes this weekend and the peripherals stink to high heaven. There is as yet no evidence of police wrongdoing, just a lot of smoke and suspicions. Here is the lowdown.

Chavis Carter, a twenty-one year-old African-American male was in a car stopped by police in Jonesboro, Arkansas on suspicion of smoking marijuana.1 He was with with two other people. Cops released both of the other folks and detained Carter after discovering weed on his person and that he had an arrest warrant in Mississippi.2

Police searched Carter twice to find the pot, but did not find a gun. A police car's videotape of the events shows Carter lead toward the patrol cars and then out of the frame. A police report says Carter was placed in the second patrol car without handcuffs, though the video doesn't show that.

As NPR notes, "the other officer searches the driver and remaining passenger, who then stand in front of the first patrol car. The officer who searched Carter asked them where the rest of the marijuana was because he found some on Carter. The driver and other passenger are handcuffed and led out of the frame, too. Eventually, they appear without handcuffs and the officers let them leave."

The patrol car's video cuts off at that point.

Police reports indicate that Carter subsequently had his hands cuffed behind his back and was stuffed into a Jonesboro Police crusier.

A second batch of police video begins as police light flickers on an empty stretch of road. A dog barks and a white SUV turns around a ways down the street.

Suddenly, an unseen man curses and shortly after he says, "He was breathing a second ago." An ambulance pulls up and someone, perhaps the same man, says, "I patted him down. I don't know where he had it hidden."

Later, someone instructs the others to leave everything as it is.

The video goes on to show an officer cordoning off the area with police tape. Two people can be seen looking on, but they leave after interacting briefly with an officer.

Carter is not shown in that video.

Carter was quite likely already dead. The cops story, he concealed a gun from them, despite being searched twice, and shot himself in the head in the back of the car, despite his hands being cuffed behind his back.3

CBS News reports, "Carter's family and others have questioned the police story, claiming that Carter was not suicidal."

CBS News also notes the autopsy report released after the incident indicated that Carter tested positive for methamphetamine use and a trace amounts of oxycodone.

Clearly there were a lot of issues in play. The police have a difficult and dangerous job. One has to wonder how much the psychology that places "enforcement" on a higher plane than "protect and serve" had to do with the death of this young man.

The cops later released a reenactment video that shows an officer being cuffed, then sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser, retrieving a fake gun from his pants, and bringing the barrel to his right temple.

In a society where Abner Louima was brutally sodomized with a stick while inside a Brooklyn police station, Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by police while reaching for his wallet in a doorway in the Bronx, and Arthur McDuffie4 died of police-administered skull fractures at a hospital in Miami after a traffic stop showed him driving with a suspended license, we worry.

We do not have the answers, but we surely hope they come to light.

1Can we decriminalize already?? How many more young men have to die or rot in prison over weed?!?

2Of course, need we even note, it was drug related...

3Did you know, despite being left-handed and handcuffed, Carter managed to shoot himself in the right temple?

4Five white cops, one black man. Ask Rodney King. And the list goes on and on. Read more examples here in the Baltimore-Sun.

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