The Sheriff’s deputy that shot and killed Hunter Brittain during a traffic stop on June 23 has been fired. The Lonoke County Sheriff’s department said the deputy, Sgt. Michael Davis, failed to follow procedure during the traffic stop, according to the Associated Press.
The Sheriff department’s policy says that officers must turn on their body cameras before any interaction with the public. Sheriff John Staley detailed that policy in a statement featured on local news outlet, FOX 16 KLRT, which has focused attention on the body cam debate, according to a KLRT report.
During the Brittain traffic stop, the deputy failed to turn his body camera on prior to the interaction, only activating it in the moments after the fatal shooting happened, per the AP:
The sheriff’s office has released few details about the shooting, which is being investigated by Arkansas State Police. Staley said the agency’s policy requires officers to activate their cameras before interacting with the public.
“My review of this deputy’s actions has determined that he did not activate his body camera in a timely way,” Staley said in video released on the office’s Facebook page. “This means there’s no video of the actual shooting. We see the aftermath, but not the shooting.”
News of the firing comes from a statement made by the Sheriff. Any further details, however, are still pending investigation from the Arkansas State Police.
The Brittain family is still awaiting those details, but now that the possibility of reviewing body cam footage has been ruled out, it’s not clear how much more information the family will receive, as the family detailed in the AP report:
Family members have said Brittain was unarmed at the time of shooting and was holding a jug of antifreeze.
“We’re not getting anything,’” Jesse Brittain, Hunter’s uncle, said earlier Thursday. “We’ve got Hunter’s body, and that’s it.”
A petition bearing Brittain’s name has been started to make sure that body cams are activated during all traffic stops in the state of Arkansas.
The family has also brought a couple of attorneys onboard to help in the case, both of whom are notable for representing the family of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis in 2020. The AP goes on:
The family has retained attorneys Devon Jacob and Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd, whose death by a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests nationwide over police misconduct and racial inequality.
Crump and Jacob said the Lonoke sheriff did the right thing by firing Davis for not activating his camera.
“Body cameras are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the only way to see the unbiased facts surrounding a police and civilian encounter resulting in injury and/or death,” the attorneys said in a statement. “When officers turn their body cameras off, they turn off their intent to be transparent along with it.”
But the community has taken to protesting the teenager’s death, and many groups are backing them. The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at a memorial held for Brittain at Beebe High School, where friends and family remembered the young man and gathered to demand justice.
Many groups are providing support in a show of solidarity for the victims of police violence, such that the Lonoke County Sheriff issued a statement asking people to protest peacefully. The deputy’s firing is just one step, and whether or not the deputy will be criminally charged is still unknown.