Arkansas deputy guilty of negligent homicide in teen’s death

Associated Press

Cabot, Ark. – A former Arkansas deputy was found guilty Friday of negligent homicide but acquitted of the more serious offense of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a white teenager whose death had drawn the attention of national civil rights leaders and activists.

Jurors found Michael Davis, a former sergeant with the Lonoke County sheriff’s office, guilty in the shooting death last year of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain during a traffic stop outside Cabot, a city of about 26,000 people roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.

Arkansas State Troopers escort former Lonoke County sheriff's deputy Michael Davis into the Cabot Readiness Center on Thursday, March 17, 2022, for the third day of Davis's manslaughter trial in Cabot, Ark.

Negligent homicide is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. Manslaughter is a felony for which Davis would have faced between three and 10 years.

Davis, who is white, was fired after the shooting by the Lonoke County sheriff for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting occurred. Davis’ body camera footage, shown at the trial, only shows the moments after the shooting.

Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck during the stop outside an auto repair shop after the teen exited his truck and reached into the bed of the pickup while failing to comply with his commands to show his hands, according to the arrest affidavit. Brittain was holding a container – which his family members have said held antifreeze – and no evidence of firearms were found in or near the truck, investigators said.

Attorney Ben Crump stands next to Hunter Brittain's casket at the Beebe High School Auditorium before his memorial service in Beebe, Ark., July 6, 2021.

Brittain’s family members have said he was grabbing the container to place behind the truck’s wheel to stop it from rolling backward.

A passenger with Brittain said he and the teen had been working on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger and another witness testified they never heard Davis tell the teen to show his hands.

Brittain was eulogized last year 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 changes in policing. Brittain’s family and friends have regularly demonstrated outside the Lonoke County sheriff’s office, demanding more details on the shooting.

Floyd died in May 2020 when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin the handcuffed Black man’s neck to the ground. His death sparked nationwide protests over policing and racial inequality.