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Death Of Handcuffed Man In Police Car Ruled A Suicide

A 21-year-old man whose hands were cuffed behind him in the back seat of a police car in Arkansas killed himself with a concealed handgun. That's according to an autopsy report released Monday into the death of Chavis Carter.

Carter died July 28 after being detained during a traffic stop. Police said he had an outstanding arrest warrant – later revealed to be drug-related. The driver and the passenger of the vehicle he was in were allowed to go.

Police searched Carter twice, but found no gun.

The state crime lab report said a gun's muzzle was placed against Carter's temple when it was fired. The Associated Press says the report was signed by three medical examiners.

In ruling the death a suicide, the Arkansas State Crime Labratory report said the manner of death is based on both autopsy findings and the investigative conclusions of the Jonesboro Police Department."

Here's more from the lab report:

"In consideration of the circumstances of death and after autopsy of the body, it is our opinion that Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old black male, died of a gunshot wound of the head. The agencies responsible for the investigation of his death were the Jonesboro Police Department and the Craighead County Coroner's Office. They reported that he was detained during a traffic stop.

He was cuffed and placed into a police car, where apparently he produced a weapon, and despite being handcuffed, shot himself in the head."

On Aug. 18, Police released dashboard camera video of Carter's arrest.

Here's what the AP has to say about that footage as well as additional video released later.

"Part of the video showed Carter being patted down and ended before officers found Carter slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car as was described in a police report. Police later released additional video they said was recorded after Carter was found.

Neither included the moment they say Carter shot himself, and the footage did little to resolve questions about how the shooting could have happened."

Carter died at a local hospital. According to a toxicology report, he tested positive for methamphetamine, anti-anxiety medication and other drugs.

According to the AP, the Jonesboro Police Department released a video re-creation of the shooting that shows how a man could shoot himself in the head with his hands cuffed behind him.

The suicide ruling as well as the police video have been criticized.

"That's a cold-blooded calculated lie," Dr. Isaac Richmond, national director of the Memphis-based Commission on Religion and Racism, told the Los Angeles Times. He called suicide "incredibly impossible under those conditions."

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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