Trial begins for Arkansas deputy in fatal shooting of teen

Body camera footage of the moments after an Arkansas deputy fatally shot a white teenager during a traffic stop was shown publicly for the first time on Tuesday as the manslaughter trial of the deputy began.

Michael Davisa former Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, faces between three and 10 years in prison if convicted in the shooting of Hunter Brittain, 17. Davis, who is white, pleaded not guilty. Brittain’s murder caught the attention of national leaders and civil rights activists.

Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday shortly after a jury of nine women and three men was seated for Davis’s trial.

Davis shot and killed Brittain during a traffic stop June 23 outside an auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a town of about 26,000 people about 30 miles north -east of Little Rock.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday that body camera footage showed Brittain’s body being turned over, prompting several members of the teenager’s family to leave the courtroom. The newspaper reported that Davis can be heard saying the teenager jumped out of his truck and grabbed a can of oil.

The video ended with Davis sitting alone in a police vehicle and audibly crying, the newspaper reported.

Davis was fired by Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in July for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting. Staley said there was no footage from the shoot, only the aftermath.

Davis told investigators he once shot Brittain in the neck after the teenager reached the back of his truck and did not comply with his orders to show his hands, according to the affidavit of ‘arrest. Brittain was holding a container – which his family members said contained antifreeze – and no evidence of firearms was found in or near the truck, according to the affidavit.

A passenger with Brittain said he and the teenager worked on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger told investigators he never heard Davis tell the teenager to show his hands.

Brittany was celebrated last year by the Reverend Al Sharpton and two lawyers who represented by George Floyd family. They said the teenager’s death highlighted the need for interracial support for changes in policing. Brittain’s family and friends have regularly protested outside the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, demanding more details about 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 against policing and racial inequality.

Elna M. Lemons