A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a teenager in Lonoke County, Arkansas, during a traffic stop on Wednesday, June 23. Sergeant Michael Davis pulled 17-year-old Hunter Brittain over along Arkansas Highway 89 at 3:00 a.m. for unknown reasons.
The teen and his passenger were on a test drive at the time of the traffic stop, after Brittain had been trying to repair his pickup’s transmission, according to a report from Vice News.
Brittain’s family said that his truck — a GMC Sierra — had a broken shifter linkage when the deputy stopped him, which caused the truck to roll backwards.
During the traffic stop, Brittain got out of his truck to place a jug of antifreeze behind the rear tire to stop it from rolling into the deputy’s car. The deputy then shot at the teenager as he was placing the jug down, according to the passenger and witness Jordan King.
King told local news that the deputy did not warn or otherwise say anything to Brittain before he fired at him. King also said that Brittain was taken to a hospital, while another deputy arrived on the scene and handcuffed King, even though he had not been charged with a crime. King spent hours handcuffed in the deputy’s vehicle.
Brittain died at the hospital where he was taken to be treated for the gunshot. The teenager’s family is still awaiting information about the stop, and it’s possible that the incident was recorded, but it’s not certain, per Vice News:
Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said in a video statement posted to his office’s Facebook page last week that “like everyone, I want to know exactly what happened.” He added that Arkansas State Police will investigate and that his office has provided the agency with body-cam footage, though it’s unclear how much of the incident was captured. The family has not seen any body-cam video.
Special Agents assigned to the state police Criminal Investigation Division are leading the investigation at the request of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department.
The circumstances of the traffic stop and what may have led up to the deputy firing his gun at Britain will be documented in the investigation. The investigative file upon completion will be turned-over to the Lonoke County prosecuting attorney to decide whether facts and evidence in the case are consistent or not with Arkansas laws related to the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer.
In the meantime, Brittain’s family and friends are demanding answers and protesting the teenager’s tragic death.
UPDATE [Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 01:35 PM ET]:
Nearly one week after the incident happened, the Brittain family still doesn’t have any answers about the traffic stop that led to Hunter’s death. Many different groups, such as the NAACP, have voiced their support for the family both through social media and in-person protests.
A petition has been started to mandate that police wear and activate body cameras during any encounter with the public. It’s still not clear whether the deputy’s body camera was on during the traffic stop with Brittain; it’s pending investigation.