August 23, 2012
By JEANNIE NUSS
Chavis Carter’s family hasn’t accepted the official explanation for his death: that he was on meth when he fatally shot himself while his hands were cuffed behind him in the backseat of a patrol car in Arkansas.
The family portrays the 21-year-old as a bright, young man who aspired to be a veterinarian, who liked shopping for sneakers and playing basketball. As questions swirl about how and why Carter died, his family also has been demanding more answers from authorities.
“If he did it, I want to know how it happened,” his grandmother, Anne Winters Carter, said in an interview. “And if he didn’t do it, then we want justice.”
Jonesboro, Ark., police have faced criticism because they say officers searched Carter twice but didn’t find a gun before they noticed him slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car July 28. Questions about race have cropped up too, because Carter was black and police said the two officers who stopped the truck he was in are white, as were the other people in the vehicle.
The local branch of the NAACP has called for a thorough investigation, and the FBI has said it’s monitoring the case. Carter’s grandmother and his mom, Teresa Carter, are also working with a high-profile legal firm that represented O.J. Simpson.
Some of the family’s supporters marched through Jonesboro earlier this week on August 20. One woman had a sign that read, “Stop the lies!! No suicide.” That march came a day after a candlelight vigil was held for Carter in Memphis and police released an autopsy report from the Arkansas state crime lab that deemed his death a suicide.
Carter had a past — court records show he had an arrest warrant stemming from a drug charge in Mississippi — but his family says there was more to his story. They described him as a good kid who liked bugs and animals.
“He used to always say, ‘The world gonna know my name,’ ” said Bianca Tipton, one of Carter’s friends. “Now the world do know his name.”
After graduating from high school in 2010, Carter got some general courses out of the way and was planning on taking classes at a college in Arkansas this fall.
He used to go shopping for sneakers with his grandma. Jordans were his favorite, especially a blue and white pair.
“Everything had to match,” Winters Carter said.
The ruling that his death was a suicide was confounding to her and others who knew Carter. It’s not just that he was searched and handcuffed. They note that Carter was left-handed but was shot in his right temple.
“If he’s double-locked and ... he’s shot in his right temple, but he is left-handed, that’s the part I don’t understand,” Winters Carter said.
Police have released video showing how a man could put a gun to his temple while his hands were cuffed behind his back. They shared footage recorded by dashboard cameras the night of the shooting and sent out a copy of the autopsy report.
“There’s no other explanation to this ... other than that he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger and that’s what we call a suicide,” said Stephen Erickson, a medical examiner who conducted the autopsy.
Toxicology tests showed Carter’s blood tested positive for at least trace amounts of the anti-anxiety medication diazepam and the painkiller oxycodone in addition to a larger amount of methamphetamine. His urine test also returned a positive result for marijuana.
Erickson said Carter was under the intoxicating effects of meth at the time of his death. It wasn’t clear if he was under the influence of marijuana or if the positive test came from a past use.
“The methamphetamine is going to play a large role in his mental status,” Erickson said, adding that he couldn’t tell how it affected his behavior because people react differently.
Winters Carter said she was surprised by the toxicology results. She didn’t know whether he was on any medication recently and she didn’t know of any drug problems with her grandson.
“When he got to Jonesboro, I can’t really say,” she said. “But with me, no. And if he did, I didn’t see it.”
At the candlelight vigil for Carter outside the National Civil Rights Museum, family members and supporters focused on his accomplishments and passions, not the drugs found in his system.
Kia Granberry held up a stone before she prayed with the small crowd.
“People brought to Jesus a woman who may have had a troubled past and when they asked Jesus what to do to the woman, he said, ‘Cast the first stone,’ ” she said. “So I want to remind you when people judge you or people say what they want to say about your son and your brother and your cousin, you remind them to cast the first stone.”
August 23, 2012
By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II
Stephon Tull was looking through dusty old boxes in his father's attic in Chattanooga a few months ago when he stumbled onto something startling: an audio reel labeled, “Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960.”
He wasn’t sure what he had until he borrowed a friend’s reel-to-reel player and listened to the recording of his father interviewing Martin Luther King Jr. for a book project that never came to fruition. In clear audio, King discusses the importance of the civil rights movement, his definition of nonviolence and how a recent trip of his to Africa informed his views. Tull said the recording had been in the attic for years, and he wasn't sure who other than his father may have heard it.
“No words can describe. I couldn’t believe it,” he told The Associated Press this week in a phone interview from his home in Chattanooga. “I found ... a lost part of history.”
Many recordings of King are known to exist among hundreds of thousands of documents related to his life that have been catalogued and archived. But one historian said the newly discovered interview is unusual because there's little audio of King discussing his activities in Africa, while two of King's contemporaries said it's exciting to hear a little-known recording of their friend for the first time.
Tull plans to offer the recording at a private sale arranged by a New York broker and collector later this month.
Tull said his father, an insurance salesman, had planned to write a book about the racism he encountered growing up in Chattanooga and later as an adult. He said his dad interviewed King when he visited the city, but never completed the book and just stored the recording with some other interviews he had done. Tull’s father is now in his early 80s and under hospice care.
During part of the interview, King defines nonviolence and justifies its practice.
“I would ... say that it is a method which seeks to secure a moral end through moral means,” he said. “And it grows out of the whole concept of love, because if one is truly nonviolent that person has a loving spirit, he refuses to inflict injury upon the opponent because he loves the opponent.”
The interview was made four years before the Civil Rights Act became law, three years before King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and eight years before his assassination. At one point in the interview, King predicts the impact of the civil rights movement.
“I am convinced that when the history books are written in future years, historians will have to record this movement as one of the greatest epochs of our heritage,” he said.
King had visited Africa about a month before the interview, and he discusses with Tull’s father how leaders there viewed the racial unrest in the United States.
“I had the opportunity to talk with most of the major leaders of the new independent countries of Africa, and also leaders in countries that are moving toward independence,” he said. “And I think all of them agree that in the United States we must solve this problem of racial injustice if we expect to maintain our leadership in the world.”
Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Maryland's Morgan State University, said the tape is significant because there are very few recordings of King detailing his activity in Africa.
“It’s clear that in this tape when he’s talking ... about Africa, he saw this as a global human rights movement that would inspire other organizations, other nations, other groups around the world,” said Winbush, who is also a psychologist and historian.
“That to me is what’s remarkable about the tape.”
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Freedom Rider and lunch counter protester who worked with King while a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said hearing King talk about the sit-ins took him back to the period when more than 100 restaurant counters were desegregated over several months.
“To ... hear his voice and listen to his words was so moving, so powerful,” said Lewis, adding that King’s principles of nonviolence are still relevant today.
“I wish people all over America, all over the world, can hear this message over and over again,” he said.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, agreed.
“I can’t think of anything better to try,” Lowery said of nonviolence. “What we’re doing now is not working. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Matching violence with violence. We’ve got more guns than we’ve ever had, and more ammunition to go with it. And yet, the situation worsens.”
A spokeswoman for King’s daughter Bernice, head of The King Center in Atlanta, said she was traveling and couldn’t comment on the audio.
Tull is working with a New York-based collector and expert on historical artifacts to arrange a sale. The broker, Keya Morgan, said he believes that unpublished reel-to-reel audio of King is extremely rare and said he’s confident of the authenticity of the recording based on extensive interviews with Tull, his examination of the tape and his knowledge of King. He’s collected many of the civil rights icon’s letters and photos.
“I was like, wow! To hear him that crisp and clear,” Morgan said. “But beyond that, for him to speak of nonviolence, which is what he represented.”
August 16, 2012
By CHUCK BARTELS
Police in Arkansas released a video reconstruction on August 14 meant to show how a 21-year-old man who was handcuffed behind his back could have shot himself in the head while in the backseat of a patrol car.
In the video, an officer played the part of Chavis Carter, a Southaven, Miss., man who died from a gunshot wound to the temple July 28 despite being frisked twice by Jonesboro police officers. Carter was Black and both of the officers who arrested him are white, a dynamic that has generated suspicion among some members of the city’s Black community.
The officers stopped a truck in which Carter was riding after they received a report of a suspicious vehicle driving up and down a residential street. They arrested Carter after learning he had an outstanding arrest warrant related to a drug charge in Mississippi. Police also alleged Carter had marijuana.
In producing the video, the agency used the same type of handcuffs that were used on Carter and the same model of handgun found with Carter after he died, a .380-caliber Cobra semi-automatic. An officer of similar height and weight to Carter — 5 feet 8 inches, 160 pounds — sat in the back of a cruiser, leaned over and was able to lift the weapon to his head and reach the trigger.
“We just wanted to get a good perspective on how it could be done and the ease with which it could be done,” said Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates.
As far as how Carter concealed the gun, Yates said it’s possible he hid it in the patrol car after officers first frisked him. He was then in the car un-handcuffed until officers eventually decided to arrest him. They then conducted a more thorough search of Carter.
“It’s obvious they did miss the weapon on the first search. It is likely, since he was placed into the car un-handcuffed the first time, that he had an opportunity to stash the weapon in the car,” Yates said. “The second search, which was more thorough and inclusive, did not disclose the weapon either.”
The incident and the subsequent investigation has prompted criticisms of the Jonesboro Police Department. Several critics came to a Monday night meeting on August 13 about the department's reaccreditation.
George C. Grant, retired dean of the library at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, asked that the reaccreditation be put on hold until the investigation into Carter’s death is complete, The Jonesboro Sun reported. Grant and others also complained that Yates hasn’t pushed to hire minorities. Only three of 145 members of the police force are Black, the Sun reported.
Yates didn’t offer a timetable for when the internal police probe would be complete. He said he’s waiting for an autopsy report, a report from the state Crime Laboratory on the gun and details on Carter’s phone records.
At a town hall meeting late Tuesday, some people said they had a hard time believing the police department explanation of what happened and voiced their frustrations to Department of Justice community relations representative Reatta Forte.
Others said Carter’s death was part of a larger issue of how Blacks are treated by police officers and recounted their own negative experiences.
Forte said she would review their comments and later convene a panel of the officials and agencies involved to discuss them, the Jonesboro Sun reported. She also said the state Crime Lab had been pressured to get the results of tests performed in the case back as soon as possible.
“I know they are putting a rush on it,” she said, urging patience from the audience.
Russell Marlin, a Memphis, Tenn.-based attorney representing Carter’s family, said Tuesday that he's conducting his own investigation. Martin said it was too early to give his own assessment of how Carter died, but he said Carter wasn’t suicidal. Martin said he would make a statement once his inquiry is complete.
“By all accounts, he was a healthy, happy guy. There’s no reason to think he would have killed himself,” Martin said.
Meanwhile, the FBI is monitoring the case. The state and local branches of the NAACP have asked the Justice Department to investigate. Craighead County NAACP Branch President Perry Jackson didn’t return a phone message seeking comment.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington, who will review the investigative file to determine whether any charges are warranted, said he didn’t expect to receive anything before the end of the week.
Police say video and audio recordings, as well as statements from witnesses, show neither officer pulled his weapon nor fired a shot during the traffic stop. Police have refused to release those recordings, citing the investigation.
Yates said other agencies have contacted him and told of similar incidents that occurred over the years.
Less than two weeks after Carter was shot, a man shot himself in the torso while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car in Mobile, Ala. The man survived. Police who searched him found two knives but missed the gun.
Charles Ellis, a training supervisor at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in East Camden, wouldn’t offer an opinion on what happened in Jonesboro. But he said both the initial pat down and the post-arrest search should reveal any weapons.
After a pat down and once a person is under arrest, “an officer can go in and search inside the pockets and inside the shoes, any place anything may be hidden on a person,” Ellis said.
August 16, 2012
By ABDI GULED
Two more Somali journalists were killed in the nation’s capital, bringing the number of journalists slain in the country this year to nine and highlighting the dangers media workers continue to face in the Horn of Africa nation despite increased security in Mogadishu.
U.N. and African Union officials decried the deaths and demanded that the Somali government put a stop to the killings. None of the people involved in the nine media workers deaths this year have been prosecuted.
“The Somali authorities must institute investigations into these killings with a view to bringing the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice,” said a top African Union official, Boubacar Diarra. The African Union military force “is ready to provide any assistance it can to help with such investigations,” he added.
A man dressed in a high school uniform shot and killed Yusuf Ali Osman, a veteran reporter who has been serving as the director of Somalia’s Information Ministry, said Bashir Khalif Ghani, an editor with the state-run Radio Mogadishu. Osman was killed near his home while on his way to work, he said. The attacker fled the scene.
A second Somali journalist was killed August 12 after government troops opened fire on each other at a sports stadium. The audience fled in panic. A stray bullet struck and killed Mohamud Ali Yare, said Abdirashi Abikar, a journalist colleague.
“He died after several bullets struck him. It was a shocking killing,” Abikar said.
Somalia and Syria have been the two most dangerous countries this year for journalists. In Somalia, the killings of media workers often happen in the government-controlled areas that journalists often consider to be safe.
Despite government’s promises of prosecution for media workers killings, criminals walk freely without facing justice.
“We were appalled by the murder of Mr. Osman. It was a brutal killing and we condemn it,” Abdiqadir Hussein Mohamed, Somalia’s information minister, said in a statement. “He was a veteran and diligent director who helped Somalia through difficult years.”
The U.N. representative to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, condemned the killings and underscored the fact that no attackers of any journalists in Somalia have been arrested for trial.
“I send my deepest condolences to their families and to all Somali media professionals, who for too long have seen their colleagues targeted, injured and assassinated without a single perpetrator being brought to justice,” Mahiga said.
Mahiga said that the U.N. has repeatedly called for full and independent investigations into what he called “unacceptable and cowardly acts.”
“This culture of impunity must end. We must not allow the fundamental freedoms that a free press represents to be compromised by those willing to use violence to serve their personal agendas. This is a decisive time in the political process and the work of media needs to be protected so that the Somali people are fully informed,” Mahiga said.
It’s not clear who has been carrying out the killings of journalists. Al-Shabab militants, warlords, criminals, and even government agents all could have reasons to see journalists killed in Somalia, one of the most corrupt and dangerous countries in the world.