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Former Arkansas Sheriff’s Deputy Charged For Killing Unarmed Teen At Traffic Stop

Hunter Brittain was attempting to stop his truck from rolling when he was fatally shot by Lonoke County Deputy Michael Davis. 

By Jax Miller
Hunter Brittain Ap

A former sheriff’s deputy in Arkansas was charged with manslaughter last week after prosecutors say he shot and killed a teenager on the side of the road.

Former Lonoke County Sheriff’s Officer Sgt. Michael Davis, 30, was charged with manslaughter on Friday, according to Arkansas’s ABC 7 as special prosecutor is accusing him of fatally shooting 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. The teen was unarmed at the time of the incident.

The Pulaski County Coroner reported that Brittain died after sustaining gunshot wounds to the neck and arm, according to ABC 7. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

“Former Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Michael Davis surrendered to Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division Special Agents about noon today,” state police stated in a release.

Davis shot and killed Brittain after pulling him over on June 23 during an overnight traffic stop that occurred outside a local auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89, police said in a press release.

Brittain and his fellow teenage passenger were working into the early morning hours on the transmission of a white GMC truck, according to an affidavit cited by the Northwest Arkansas Democratic Gazette. The pair decided to take it for a test drive when Davis pulled them over. 

“Brittain slowed down, put his blinker on, and pulled to the left side of the roadway,” the affidavit stated. “… as they were getting pulled over by the deputy, they were laughing and thought it was funny because the truck was smoking and that Brittain was trying to get off the highway.”

Davis failed to contact dispatch upon pulling over the teenagers. Brittain and the passenger exited the vehicle when it began to roll backward, according to the Gazette. As Brittain reached into the back of his truck, Davis shot him. He told investigators he could not discern what was in Brittain's hands when he pulled the trigger. He admitted to seeing Brittain drop a bottle of antifreeze immediately after the fatal shot.

Attorneys for Brittain’s family claim the teenager retrieved the bottle of antifreeze to place behind one of the truck’s tires to keep it from rolling, according to the Gazette.

Davis told investigators Hunter failed to comply with his orders to show his hands, according to an arrest affidavit cited by the Associated Press. The passenger who witnessed the events claims Davis made no such command.

In July, Davis was fired from the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office for not activating his body camera until after the shooting occurred.

“As I said from the beginning of this sad and tragic case, any of my deputies who violate the law, or my policies, will be held accountable,” said Sheriff John Staley in a press release. “This former deputy failed to follow my policies about the proper use of body-worn cameras, which is why I terminated his employment.”

Brittain's killing garnered widespread attention after Rev. Al Sharpton attended his funeral with two attorneys who’d represented George Floyd’s family. While Brittain was white, as is Davis, Sharpton gave a eulogy acknowledging the need for police reform despite the fact that people of color are disproportionately murdered by police. 

“The issue of policing is not about Black and white,” he said while speaking at Brittain’s high school. “It’s about right and wrong.”

Manslaughter charges against Davis came after Special Prosecutor Jeff Phillips reviewed the case in July. 

“The special prosecutor has now decided that this former deputy must face a judge and jury to explain his actions in this incident,” Staley said.

Brittain's family celebrated outside the courthouse after the state the charges were announced.

“This is something. We’re going to take this and see what else (Phillips) has got to say, and hopefully, this will stick,” said the teen's uncle, Jesse Brittain. “He won’t be an officer no more, and he can’t kill no more kids.”

A hearing date in Davis' case is scheduled for November, according to the Arkansas Times. His bond has been set at $15,000.  

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