RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) – A former Arkansas sheriff was charged Friday with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a white teenager whose death caught the attention of national civil rights activists.
A special counsel announced the felony charge against Michael Davis, a former sergeant with the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. Davis faces between three and 10 years in prison if convicted.
Davis shot Brittain during a traffic stop on June 23 outside of an auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a city of about 26,000 people about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.
Davis told investigators that he shot Brittain once in the neck during the traffic stop after the teen reached into the back of his truck and failed to comply with his orders to show his hands, according to the affidavit. of the arrest. Brittain was holding a container, which her family members said contained antifreeze, and no evidence of firearms was found in or near the truck, according to the affidavit.
A passenger with Brittain said that he and the teenager had been working on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger told investigators he never heard Davis tell the teen to show his hands.
An attorney for Davis did not immediately return a message Friday morning.
Davis, who is white, He was fired by Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in July for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting. Staley said there are no footage of the shooting, only the aftermath.
Several members of Brittain’s family and friends shouted “Thank you, Jesus” when Phillips announced the charge. Phillips said a bond hearing for Davis would be held on Monday.
Jesse Brittain, the teenager’s uncle, said he was glad to see Davis charged with something, although he would have preferred a more serious charge.
“This is something,” he told reporters after the announcement. “We’re going to take this and see what else (Phillips) has to say and hopefully this will stick. He will no longer be an officer and he will not be able to kill any more children. “
Brittain was praised by the Rev. Al Sharpton and two attorneys who represented George Floyd’s family. They said the teen’s death highlighted the need for interracial support for efforts to reform police practices. Brittain’s family and friends have regularly demonstrated outside the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, demanding more details about the shooting.
Floyd died in may last year when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin the handcuffed black man to the ground. His death sparked nationwide protests over policing and racial inequality.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Devon Jacob, representing the Floyd family, joined the Brittain family in calling the charge “the first step in Hunter Brittain’s pursuit of justice.” And Brittain’s family repeated their call for the Arkansas Legislature to require officers to wear body cameras that would turn on as soon as their shift begins.
“Nothing will bring Hunter back, but we can honor his memory and legacy by calling for justice and a name change,” the attorneys and family said in a statement.