Rushed Assumptions Made Basis of Conclusion in Death Investigation. The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently joined Cochran Firm managing partner Benjamin Irwin and the family of Chavis Carter at a press conference surrounding unresolved matters in the death of Carter 21, who died earlier this summer while in custody of the Jonesboro, Ark., police.
Addressing a crowd of citizens and media at the Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis, Jackson called for justice.
“We appeal to the Department of Justice and the FBI to engage in a thorough investigation and leave no stone unturned until justice is realized,” Rev. Jackson said. “The good news in this tragedy is that there is a credible, able law firm, the Cochran Law Firm, making the case for the Carter family. Chavis is dead and cannot speak for himself.”
Carter family representatives have launched an investigation to determine how and why he died of a gunshot wound to the temple on July 28. While police have agreed to cooperate in The Cochran Firm’s investigation, many things remain behind closed doors.
Jackson called attention to missing sections of an edited police dashboard camera video from the night of the shooting released by the Jonesboro Police Department.
“While this case is surrounded in mystery, there are certain things we do know,” Jackson said. “He was alive when they stopped him. Alive in police custody. They frisked him twice and found no weapon. The second time he was handcuffed. Then we get this mysterious information that he did a Houdini act somehow. He then, handcuffed with no weapon in site, used his left hand to shoot himself in the right temple. That is hard to believe. Moreover, at that point there is a gap in the (video) tape. We need not only the tape be released, but the tape they have not released. They make the position that there is no more information in the gap because of technical difficulty. This seems to be a convenient explanation but not an acceptable one.”
Irwin stated that the basis for conclusions derived by the police investigation and the autopsy are unclear. Many of the questions regarding the origins of the gun and how Carter could die while in police custody after being searched twice remain unanswered.
While his concerns with the investigation are many, Irwin describes a rush to conclusions as the overarching problem.
“Too many assumptions and opinions have been adopted as facts in this case, and that can only slow down our search for the truth,” Irwin said. “An investigation should never begin with a conclusion and be followed by a search for facts that support the previously stated, premature conclusion. When that happens, relevant evidence is not gathered and possible contradicting conclusions are ignored. That is exactly what is happening here. Uncovering the truth should be the top priority.”
“How do police officers who did not find a gun on Chavis in two searches, and allege they did not see the shooting, determine so quickly that Chavis shot himself,” Irwin continued. “Ever since that snap judgment without the benefit of evidence like gun powder residue tests, police have been too busy trying to prove their conclusion to consider any other possible scenarios. New information is not being gathered, and unsupportive evidence is ignored. We still do not know where the gun came from, how the gun ended up in the car or who shot the gun. Police say Chavis hid the gun in the car when placed in custody. Where is the evidence to prove this allegation? Just because someone says it, does not make it true.”
Ultimately, how and by whom the trigger was pulled does not make a difference regarding the matter of responsibility.
“Chavis died while in police custody, a time when he should have been safe,” Irwin said. “Even if some aspects of this case remain a mystery, the Jonesboro Police Department showed great negligence in not protecting him from this tragic death. This issue is important to not only the family, but to all people. Everyone needs to know that they can feel safe when taken into police custody.”
According to Irwin, the family is prepared to accept whatever outcome is presented by the facts, but conclusions based upon a rush judgment and opinions with few supporting facts continue to fuel the investigation.