Arkansas deputy sentenced in the death of a teenager gets a year in prison

Arkansas' former deputy was found guilty Friday of negligent murder and sentenced to one year in prison for shooting dead a white teenage boy.

Arkansas deputy sentenced in the death of a teenager gets a year in prison

The death drew national attention from civil rights leaders.

Jurors found Michael Davis not guilty of the more serious offense, manslaughter. However, they found him guilty of the misdemeanor in the death 17 year-old Hunter Brittain at a Cabot traffic stop on June 23. This was a city of approximately 26,000 people about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Little Rock.

Davis was a former sergeant at the Lonoke County Sheriff's Office. He was sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison. He would have been sentenced to between three and ten years for manslaughter, which is a felony. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette , Davis was also sentenced to a $1,000 penalty.

Davis is still free of bond, pending appeal.

According to the arrest affidavit, Davis, a white man, claimed that he shot Brittain once in his neck. The incident occurred after Brittain exited his truck and reached for the bed of his pickup. Davis refused to obey Davis' orders to show his hands. Witnesses and a passenger both testified that Davis never told Brittain to show his hands.

The deliberations of the jury, which began on Thursday afternoon and ended Friday morning, lasted just three hours.

Brittain's friends and family chanted "Justice for Hunter" outside of the Army National Guard facility where the trial began on Tuesday.

Brittain's grandmother Rebecca Payne said that her family wanted Brittain to be convicted of the crime so he would not be able to serve again as a law enforcement officer.

"Now, what's going on?" Reporters will have to be afraid for their lives once more, she said.

John Staley, Lonoke County Sheriff, fired Davis for failing to turn on his body cam after shooting Brittain. The footage presented at the trial shows just the moments following the event.

Brittain's truck's passenger said that he had been with the teen to work on the pickup's transmission. Brittain's family said that he grabbed a container containing antifreeze to put behind the truck's wheels to stop it rolling backwards. Investigators did not find any evidence that there were firearms near or inside the truck.

Davis testifiedThursday, describing the shooting as an emotional recount. He thought the teen was reaching for a gun.

Davis stated, "I didn’t get into this job in order to kill people."

Brittain's attorneys, Devon Jacob and Ben Crump, criticize the sheriff for failing to fire Davis after the shooting. Civil rights lawyers, who also represented George Floyd's loved ones after Minneapolis police shot him to death in May 2020 said that Hunter deserved better.

"The jury's verdict is a declaration by an Arkansas law enforcement officer that Hunter Brittain was unlawfully killed," the attorneys stated in a written statement.

Robert Newcomb, Davis’ attorney, stated that he was happy jurors did not find him guilty of manslaughter, but that he planned to challenge the standard used to determine if he was negligent.

Newcomb said that the police officer is more aware of a threat than you or me, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

According to the sheriff, he accepted the verdict of the jury.

Staley posted a statement on his Facebook page saying that "as I have stated since day one, it was a tragic incident and we all need continue to pray for those involved."

The Rev. Brittain eulogized Brittain last year. Al Sharpton, Jacob and Crump were also honored. They stated that the death of the teenager highlighted the need to have interracial support in order for police reforms to be made.


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