BREAKING: Special prosecutor announces arrest warrant issued for former Lonoke County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Michael Davis following the shooting death of Hunter Brittain. #ARnews pic.twitter.com/hRSrkE34at
— Hunter Hoagland (@HunterHoagland) September 17, 2021
First report Hunter Hoagland of Fox 16.
Then Lonooke Sgt. Michael Davis will be charged with manslaughter. He fatally shot Hunter Brittain, 17, during a traffic stop when Brittain walked toward him with something in his hand. It was a container of anti-freeze to block a wheel so his vehicle wouldn’t roll. He and a friend were test-driving it after work on a transmission problem. Davis was fired as a Lonoke deputy for not activating his body camera. The family engaged lawyers who’d worked for George Floyd’s family to press an investigation of the issue and Jeff Phillips of Russellville was named a special prosecutor in the case when the local prosecutor recused.
Davis will have an initial court appearance Monday. He surrendered to State Police about noon today and a State Police release said he’d be held in an undisclosed county jail until his bond hearing Monday in Lonoke County.
Phillips made his decision based on an investigation by the State Police. When he announced an arrest warrant would be issued, Brittain friends and family broke out in cheers and applause at the news conference in Russellville. “Thank you Jesus,” said one.
Phillips read the affidavit filed for the arrest warrant. It said Davis fired one shot that struck Brittain in the neck. And he confirmed the deputy’s body camera wasn’t activated until after the shooting.
Davis told investigators he issued several commands to Brittain to get back in his truck. He said he asked Brittain to show his hands, but Brittain reached both hands into the rear of the truck and that’s when Davis fired. After the shooting, the container he’d picked up fell to the ground. Davis said he couldn’t see what was in Brittain’s hands.
Jordan King, who was riding with Brittain, said Brittain had signaled a turn into a body shop. He said they knew a sheriff’s deputy was following them and were laughing because the truck was smoking and it should have seemed evident they were getting off the road.
King said he never heard any warnings from Davis. No weapon was found in Brittain’s truck.
Phillips urged the assembled crowd not to confuse an arrest warrant with conviction. That will be up to a jury, he said. He also said he wouldn’t be issuing statements on the case.
Phillips also seemed to prepare the crowd for a release of Davis pending trial. He said a bond was meant to ensure the appearance of the defendant. He said he’d recommend a bond consistent with this type of charge. He said emotions would run high from both sides and “would be in conflict.”
Phillips did answer one question. He said the charge was manslaughter and it would be based on the allegation that Davis acted recklessly. The charge is a class D felony that can carry a sentence of three to 10 years.
This news release followed the announcement:
Nationally renowned civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Devon Jacob, and the family of Hunter Brittain, have released a statement on the special prosecutor’s decision to charge former Lonoke Sheriff Deputy Michael Davis with manslaughter in the shooting death of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain:
“These charges are just the first step in the pursuit of justice for Hunter Brittain whose life was tragically ended by this unjustified use of deadly force. Not only did former officer Michael Davis shoot and kill Hunter, who was unarmed and posed no threat, but he also failed to follow protocol by not activating his body cam until after he shot the teenager. This is the latest example of law enforcement shooting first and asking questions later. Former officer Davis shot Hunter before he knew what Hunter had in his hand — a container of antifreeze coolant. When officers fail to use their body camera, they fail to be transparent. Instead of answers, the family is left with questions about how a traffic stop could lead to the tragic killing of their young loved one.
“Nothing will bring Hunter back, but we can honor his memory and legacy by calling for justice and change in his name. We hope to see former officer Davis held to the fullest extent of the law and we will continue to call for the passage of ‘Hunter’s Law,’ which advocates for heightened body camera enforcement and transparency, so not one more family will have to suffer loss of this magnitude at the hands of law enforcement.”
Brittain’s uncle told reporters the family was happy “he is charged with something,” but he wasn’t sure he was satisfied with a manslaughter charge.
His grandmother also talked to KATV:
UPDATE: Becky Payne, Hunter Brittain’s grandma, says she is encouraged by the charges today. She says she hopes Michael Davis will not be able to be an officer again. @KATVNews #arnews pic.twitter.com/iRdOqilu1F
— Mills Hayes (@KATVMillsHayes) September 17, 2021