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Suicide That Defies Logic









Let me get this straight: A young man is stopped by police, who find $10 worth of drugs on him; he had twice been searched by officers and then double handcuffed behind his back and placed in the back of a police car; yet, somehow, he retrieves a gun that both searches failed to find and uses it shoot himself in the right temple?

That is what police in Jonesboro, Ark., say happened on the evening of Sunday, July 29, to Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old African-American man from Southaven, Miss., a suburb of Memphis. They say he committed suicide with a hidden gun while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. According to a local CBS News report, his mother was told that he shot himself in the right temple, but she claims that Chavis was left-handed.

The strange circumstances of this case, which even the Jonesboro police chief, Michael Yates, called “bizarre” and said “defies logic at first glance,” have raised questions that sorely need answering.

First, some background on how Carter came into contact with police that Sunday night.

According to a statement released Friday by the Jonesboro Police Department, Chavis was a passenger in a “suspicious vehicle” mentioned in a 911 call because it was “observed driving down the street with its lights off” at 9:50 p.m. Three people were in the vehicle: the driver, Carter and another passenger.

According to the statement, Carter, who originally gave a false name — Laryan Bowman — was “ ‘frisked’ or ‘patted down,’ not necessarily a full search at this point” because the officers on the scene “did not know what they had nor if any arrests were to be made.” During that first search, “a small amount of marijuana and some small plastic bags commonly used to package drugs were discovered in Carter’s pocket.” According to the police report, the estimated value of it was $10.

The police then determined that Carter “had an active warrant out of Mississippi.” According to The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, a warrant had been issued for Carter’s arrest after he violated his probation. He had pleaded guilty in 2011 to one count of selling marijuana.

He was placed in the back of one of the police cars on the scene without being handcuffed.

The other two people in the car “had no drugs and no active warrants,” so they were released.

Carter was then taken out of the police car, at which point officers “cuffed him behind his back and searched his person again” and placed him back into the police car.

Then things get strange. According to the police statement:

“As the officers then returned to their vehicles to leave, the second officer entered his vehicle and noted the smell of something burning (gun smoke we believe) and noticed Carter slumped over on the passenger side of the police unit. The officer then opened the rear door and noticed Carter unresponsive with a quantity of blood on him. At this point, he ran to the other officer to prevent him from leaving and both officers returned to the second unit, opened both doors and began to attempt to assist Carter (who was still handcuffed behind his back) and summoned an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and transported Carter to the hospital where he died a short time later.”

The statement continues:

“Investigators were called to the scene and began processing the evidence, photographing and securing evidence. A small .380 caliber cobra semi-auto firearm was discovered, as well as an expended case, and a projectile (which was recovered in the rear of the vehicle).”

(The police say that the handgun had been reported stolen from a Jonesboro resident in June.)

Police say that they have interviewed “a number of witnesses” to the incident and that their “statements are consistent with the statements of the officers and the evidence reflected by the dash-cam video of the responding officer, along with audio evidence from the backup officer.”

According to the police, “the statements and video/audio evidence account for the officers’ actions from the beginning of the stop until the arrival of the ambulance and indicate that neither officer removed his weapon, fired a shot or was in a position to enter the vehicle where Carter was detained in a manner that would allow for them to injure Carter.”

Furthermore, “the windows on the patrol unit where Carter was detained were up and intact, indicating no possibility of a bullet penetrating from the outside of the patrol unit while Carter was detained.” Yet, “specifically, how Carter suffered his apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound remains unexplained.”

That is the question, isn’t it? How do police officers search a man twice and find a small amount of marijuana but miss a handgun? And how does that man, who had been handcuffed, use that gun to shoot himself in the head?

The F.B.I. is now monitoring the investigation while a nation waits for answers and wonders about a “suicide” that “defies logic.”

(A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 4, 2012, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: The Curious Case of Chavis Carter.)

Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.”

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4 Comments on "Suicide That Defies Logic"

  1. Suicide That Defies Logic | The Buffalo Bullet is an outstanding share. Many thanks for this article.

  2. Why do you call SOUTHAVEN a “suburb” of Memphis? Do you KNOW what a suburb is? Well I’ll tell you what it is NOT – it’s not ANOTHER CITY in ANOTHER STATE no matter how close it is to Memphis.

    Suburbs are NOT SEPARATE CITIES but named residential areas either within the major city that are on the outskirts of the city, or (in the USA) they’re in the county, like a residential community that is very close to a major city, but are just developed areas of homes & residences outside the city limits, but, they are NOT a completely separate city. Way to teach people something wrong. Certainly you could argue that was the easiest way to explain the proximity to Memphis, but, there would still be a different and proper way of doing that, IF you even think it’s relevant to the article, which I don’t. The man’s warrant was in Mississippi, and his previous arrest was within another, more distant from Memphis, city within Mississippi. Memphis has nothing to do with it.

    As far as this article goes, I have read articles where it was claimed a person committed suicide by shooting themselves in the BACK several times with a shotgun, and I would LOVE to know how they aimed it or pulled the trigger even ONCE much less 3 times; however I couldn’t believe it – people have stabbed themselves in the HEART several times before dying, killed themselves by using a damn table SKILL SAW (Can you imagine? I have some photos of that) people can and have sliced their own throats open. I just don’t see how any of these things can be real, but, I assure you – they are.

    ALL THAT ASIDE – let’s face it – Southaven MISSISSIPPI cops and Mississippi cops in GENERAL are not geniuses and the dude VERY EASILY could have had a weapon that wasn’t found – after all they were just arresting some guy for something very petty, they felt no threat, they even let his friends go and quite often they WILL arrest the whole care even if just one has drugs – that alone tells me they didn’t think this was a very serious bust. The weed was probably in his front POCKET the gun was probably stuffed down in his underwear between his legs.
    Recently I have read articles related to TWO separate women who made it all the way into their PRISON CELLS with guns. WHERE WERE THEY? They won’t say and they LITERALLY theorize one woman had it up in here HOO-HA which is disgusting, but, they found the gun in the toilet & she claimed it had already been there. A THIRD ARTICLE a woman kept a fur coat – A WHOLE COAT – jammed up in the rolls of her FAT in jail, they told her the charges would be dropped if she produced the coat – and she pulled it out of her fat. Also a fat giant 4 or 5 hundred pound man who hid a gun in his fat rolls for a long time in jail. YOU SEE THERE ARE MANY MANY ways and places to hide a gun, there are also reasons that cops MISS the guns and find something else.

    HOW FAT WAS THIS DUDE?? I don’t know. That might be the key to the entire ‘mystery’.

    MAYBE HE was trying to pull the gun out of wherever he had hidden it (so he could say ‘that ain’t mine’) so he could slip it down into the floorboards and deny knowledge of it; but then he just dropped it, accidentally killing himself. A good reason idiots shouldn’t hold weapons.

    WHY do you or anybody else assume it was suicide ???????? It sounds like it could be a solid accident.

    Also, since when did being handcuffed stop people from moving about, twisting, grabbing, pulling or even turning their hands in order to point something towards their own head? IT DOESN’T stop people from doing any of those things. I just saw a video where a really skinny dude pretty easily lowered his hands, which were cuffed behind his back, all the way around his butt, down his thighs and around his feet, pulling his arms out front.

    ALTHOUGH if you had ever been sent to prison in Mississippi or in Memphis, Tennessee, you very well MIGHT try to kill yourself to avoid going back. Those prisons are worse than POW camps; daily rapes, assaults, stabbings are daily fare. There are 2 to 3 times as many inmates as the place is built for (like in Memphis) they’re stacked like Sardines in a city full of VICIOUS gang bangers with sociopathic mentality and a penchant for power over other humans and rape. They will take your pillow and mattress and if you are a normal person, you let them have it – or you fight. It’s not a nice place.

    IF you are so worried about the condition of the Black American Male then you should focus on TWO THINGS:

    #1 – the state of American prisons – that are SO BAD the EU human rights courts ruled extraditing A KNOWN TERRORIST to the U.S. to face trial and possibly spend life in prison in the U.S. violated his civil rights. Not the life in prison part (but they are so effed up here in Europe, that’s next I’m sure – first they refused to extradite people who may face death, now it’ll even be life in prison – they don’t have that here). They live like ANIMALS, literally – and that isn’t right. This AWFUL, awful condition is creating an aids epidemic in the black male community (AND female) due to rape and even consensual prison sex, the males bring back into the community upon release. A black male in the United States is almost 100X more likely to have HIV than a white female, and black females are about 30X more likely. I seriously believe this prison problem is a very big part of that. The number one cause of death of black american males ages 24-45 is AIDS.
    see below for #1 cod for black males aged 14-35** (stat information below)

    #2 – THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH OF BLACK AMERICAN MALES AGES 14-35 is HOMICIDE AT THE HANDS OF ANOTHER BLACK MALE. How about focusing on trying to STOP THAT – not wonder at one ‘weird’ death that is probably just because some stupid cop missed a gun and some stupid druggie was trying to ditch it and accidentally killed himself. The more you focus on peripheral issues, all you do is remove focus on the real, ongoing, and tragic issues pervading the black community.

    94% of ALL BLACKS KILLED IN THE UNITED STATES ARE KILLED BY ANOTHER BLACK PERSON, not by whites or mexicans or cops or anybody else.

    They are killing EACH OTHER.

    STOP all the focus on ‘weird cop deaths’ – that HAPPENS and it happens to whites, mexicans, chinese, what-ever. It’s the luck of the draw when you get the bad cop, race doesn’t matter.

    If you want to say OH well it happens to black people more, maybe it does, maybe they fight back more, try to run more, maybe they get arrested more & the stats for anything arrest related ALL rise in unison, MAYBE they AREN’T ‘killed more’ and people just believe that and repeat that without doing ANY REAL RESEARCH on the numbers…just there are so many variables and I don’t see anybody studying ANY of those variables, just chronic complaining about blacks killed by cops, bad evil cops, he was a good boy who never got in any trouble (except for those robbery charges, BUT HEY everybody ‘makes mistakes’ RIGHT?) – and what about cops killed by blacks? THEY don’t matter? Out trying to do their jobs and arrest criminals, protect society, you know they are murdered and probably at a helluva lot higher rate than blacks killed by cops.

    I’m sick of the focus on the smallest group segments that perpetrate homicide against black civilians (because they get a lot of press, it doesn’t make them top dog on ‘people who kill’ / cops who kill detainees are still virtually the smallest percentage of killers of black civilians – the largest percentage goes to non police black males).

    13% of the population, yet blacks make up 48% of ALL HOMICIDE VICTIMS.

    The #1 cause of death of black american females is HOMICIDE at the hands of a current or former partner. Most black women date black males.

    Therefore black males are the number one cause of death for both young black males and females in the United States. The segment of black society IN THE PRIME OF THEIR LIFE – and this is actually making the national population of blacks DECLINE. That’s how bad the problem is. THAT should frighten you.
    All I hear about is George Zimmerman, the half mexican yet somehow ALL WHITE killer of Trayvon Martin – innocent ‘child’ of 17 at 6’1″ tall 170lb of high school football player; covered in home made tattoos; flinging gang signs; smoking and selling ‘blunt’; talking on his twitter page about ‘when you want to fuck some bitches, first you got to pick one’ talking about women in a disgusting and degrading way with even worse, more disgusting language that would make a sailor blush; talking about ‘I wish I could kill every one of those…’ and also had either punched or TRIED to punch a bus driver a week prior to his death, showing a hot temper and a fast fist. Not exactly the tiny meek child portrayed by the media; and George Zimmerman turning out to be a lighter shade of BROWN more than white – but the drums beat WHITE WHITE WHITE evil white man killed a tiny helpless black child – GUILTY OF BEING BLACK while walking down the sidewalk – OH, now we’re all so worried about our kids being killed by some WHITE GUY with a gun and an attitude.
    REALLY?? So THAT’s what black America is worried about? THE ONE gun death (that sounded like self defense to me) at the hands of, LETS FACE IT – A MEXICAN guy with a white dad. His mother was mexican and he was raised by his mother, his first fiance or wife was mexican, etc.

    TELL ME, why is 1/2 white president Obama considered ALL BLACK, but 1/2 white George Zimmerman is considered ALL WHITE ?? Who makes these determinations and why? OH the shit media and the black community dances when the media pulls their strings. IT’S DISGUSTING. It deters from focusing on and trying to solve THE REAL PROBLEMS: 14 YEAR OLD armed robbers and home invaders; street gangs; drug dealers; pimps & whores; all littering the streets of the black community and making it impossible for it to thrive in any way; and making it almost IMPOSSIBLE for good people to live in peace, graduate school, and become productive members of society.

    **THESE STATISTICS are the result of a THIRTY YEAR STUDY by the Department of Justice in conjunction with the CDC. From 1974 to 2005. So this isn’t one of those things where some dickhead cherry picks some crappy stats from one particular year. This is REALITY.

    You know WHY the black population is only 13%? (and acknowledging that the hispanic population is now at 16%) HOMICIDE is the reason why. I can’t remember the exact statistics for what I am about to say next, but, during one particular year the black population of america lost about 8.7% of all YOUNG males of a certain age of pre-teens to age 20, something like that, due to homicide. I’m going to have to pull the research and keep it more available, but, I do recall open mouthed shock when I read the stats from that particular year.

    The population of black Americans has actually DECLINED! That doesn’t even make sense.

  3. Carter shot himself by accident! The officers missed the gun. He tried to get it out and ended up shooting himself! Otherwise the officers would have tested positive for gun powder residue, and they did not. Unlikely but it happened!

    • The gun powder residue sounds plausible if true it tested negative, but wouldn’t unscrupulous coppers carry a chemical or know how to clean their hands of it?

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