Ex-Arkansas cop guilty of negligent homicide in teen’s death

CABOT, Ark. – A former Arkansas congressman was convicted on Friday of negligent homicide but acquitted of the more serious offense of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a white teenager whose death caught the attention of leaders and national civil rights activists.

Jurors found Michael Davis, a former Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, guilty in the shooting death last year of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain during a traffic stop outside Cabot , a town of about 26,000 about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Negligent homicide is an offense punishable by one year in prison. Manslaughter is a crime Davis would have faced between three and 10 years for.

Davis, who is white, was fired after the shooting by the Lonoke County Sheriff for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting. Body camera footage of Davis, shown during the trial, only shows the moments after the shooting.

After the verdict was announced, Brittain’s family and friends chanted “justice for Hunter” outside the Army National Guard facility that was used for the trial, which began on Tuesday.

Rebecca Payne, Brittain’s grandmother, said family members wanted the deputy convicted of the crime to ensure he could no longer serve as a law enforcement officer.

“Now what will happen? Will people have to fear for their lives again? she told reporters.

Davis, who is white, was fired after the shooting by the Lonoke County Sheriff for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting. Body camera footage of Davis, shown during the trial, only shows the moments after the shooting.

Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck during the stop outside an auto repair shop after the teenager got out of his truck and reached the bed of the van while not standing not complying with his orders to show his hands, according to the arrest affidavit. Brittain was holding a container – which his family members believe contained antifreeze – and no evidence of firearms was found in or near the truck, investigators said.

A passenger with Brittain said he and the teenager worked on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. Brittain’s family members said he grabbed the container to place it behind the wheel of the truck to prevent it from rolling back.

The passenger and another witness said they never heard Davis tell the teenager to show his hands.

Recounting the shooting fondly, Davis testified Thursday that he believed the teenager was looking for a gun in the bed of the truck.

“I didn’t do this job to kill people,” Davis said.

Brittain was celebrated last year by the Reverend Al Sharpton and two lawyers who represented the family of George Floyd. 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.

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