Applause and loud sobs were the response Friday to prosecuting attorney Jeff Phillips’ announcement Friday that a former Lonoke County deputy accused of fatally shooting a teenager would face felony manslaughter charges.
Phillips, the 5th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney, made the announcement in a press conference before a standing-room only audience at the Pope County Courthouse in Russellville. The courtroom was filled with friends and family of the victim, 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. When Phillips announced an affidavit for a warrant had been filed, the crowd burst into applause. Several people in the audience openly wept.
Former Lonoke County Sgt. Michael Davis, 31, will be charged with manslaughter in the June 23 shooting.
“In mid-July, I was appointed special prosecutor to this case,” Phillips said. “The State Police did a really good job in this investigation and they have helped me in every way.”
Early in the morning on June 23, Brittain, 17, was pulled over by then-deputy Davis, who shot Brittain while he was attempting to stop his white GMC truck from moving backward. Brittain later died in the hospital. The Pulaski County Coroner’s Office released a report on Sept. 3 that detailed how Brittain died of gunshot wounds to his neck and arm.
The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office fired Davis after it was discovered he did not turn on his body camera at any point during the incident. He had been with the sheriff’s office since 2013.
Phillips read from the affidavit, which stated that Davis claimed he gave Brittain several commands instructing Brittain to show his hands and stop. Davis said Brittain began reaching with both hands into the bed of the truck, and as Brittain began to bring his hands from the bed of his truck, Davis discharged his weapon one time toward Brittain.
Davis said that as he observed the bullet strike Brittain, a container came from Brittain’s hands that originated from the bed of the truck and landed on the ground. When asked to clarify if he could see Brittain’s hand before he fired, Davis said he could not see Brittain’s hands or what was in them.
A passenger and witness to the event, Jordan King, stated that he, Brittain and another friend had been working all evening on a transmission for Brittain’s truck and they were test driving the vehicle when Davis pulled them over. King stated that he never heard anyone say “show me your hands” or words similar to that before he heard the gunshot.
“This defendant will be treated like anyone else,” Phillips said. “People think that once a person is charged, he is guilty, and that is not the case.” Guilt or innocence is for the jury to ultimately decide, he said. He also said that at the bond hearing Monday, the bond will be set based on a number of factors, including whether the defendant has prior failure to appears, if he has previous offenses, or if he is a member of the community.
“A lot of people think you should just get a high bail and not be released, but that is not the way it works,” Phillips said.
Davis is expected to have a bond hearing Monday in Lonoke County.
Manslaugter is a Class C felony and carries the penalty of 3 to 10 years in prison.
Davis turned himself in around noon Friday, according to a news release from the State Police. He was taken to the Lonoke County Detention Center for the required booking process.
The Arkansas State Police will transport Davis to an undisclosed county jail where he will be held until a first appearance hearing next week, according to the release.
Lawyers of the family plan on filing a wrongful death suit.