LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ state crime lab confirmed Wednesday that it didn’t perform gunshot residue testing on a man fatally shot in the head while handcuffed in a patrol car, saying it doesn’t do that kind of analysis on victims of homicides or suicides.
Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates told The Associated Press that the department had requested gunshot residue testing in the shooting death of 21-year-old Chavis Carter, but he said the state crime lab doesn’t do that type of testing. A report from the crime lab ruled Carter’s death a suicide.
The lab’s chief criminalist, Lisa Channell, told the AP that the testing can indicate whether a person was in an environment with gunshot residue, but “it cannot tell you whether the person pulled the trigger or not.”
The crime lab’s policy is not new. A 2001 memo sent to law enforcement officers said being in close proximity to a gun when it’s fired can lead to positive gunshot residue test results and that negative gunshot residue results don’t mean someone didn’t fire a gun.
Still, Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis, Tenn., lawyer representing Carter’s family questioned why the test wasn’t conducted.
“To me, that’s horrible,” he said.
Police have been facing criticism after they said officers searched Carter twice but didn’t find a gun before he was fatally shot in a patrol car July 28.
The crime lab did conduct toxicology tests on Carter and found that meth and other drugs were in his system.
Police have released video recorded from dashboard cameras the night of the shooting, but the footage doesn’t appear to show when officers found Carter slumped over and bleeding in the backseat of a patrol car as described in a police report.
Jonesboro police also released a reconstruction video, but that hasn’t convinced everyone either.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Carter’s lawyers and mother Wednesday and called on the Justice Department to investigate Carter’s case.
“We are convinced the explanations given so far are not credible ones,” Jackson said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Lyle Waterworth didn’t immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment. Yates, the police chief, also didn’t respond to an email seeking further comment.
Associated Press writer Adrian Sainz contributed to this story from Memphis, Tenn.
Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss
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