The Commerce Journal

August 27, 2012

Carter’s death leaves too many questions unanswered

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — All of the details in the July ‘suicide’ of a 21-year-old man in Jonesboro, Ark., have yet to be made public. The FBI is currently investigating the death, which a coroner declared a suicide earlier this week. The unfortunate, untimely end for Chavis Carter would probably go unmarked by all, save his family and friends, had it not been for the fact that it was almost impossible for Carter to commit suicide.

He was in the back of a police vehicle, handcuffed following a traffic stop. He had been searched twice, and police officers found a baggie of weed that, along with an outstanding warrant, resulted in his arrest.

Carter was also African-American.

Police would have us believe that Carter, while handcuffed, managed to pull a .380 Cobra he had concealed through two police searches, hold it to his right temple and pull the trigger. According to the police, they only discovered that Carter was dead after they smelled smoke coming from the car.

The story the authorities want us to swallow is improbable, if not physically impossible. It’s a tragedy, if his death was not a suicide, both for Carter and for America.

It means that as a country we still look at ourselves as black or white, cop or criminal. It means that violent crimes are still being perpetrated on African-American men by white, Southern police officers. It means that we haven’t come as far as we had hoped.

It also means that the hard-working, dedicated and self-sacrificing police officers that serve our communities while putting their lives on the line every day will get a bad rap because of the racist, violent, and sometimes homocidal ones.

Carter had made some bad decisions. The autopsy revealed the presence of methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and marijuana. Clearly, this wasn’t his first run in with the law.

But we’ve all made bad decisions. Many of us have been caught and paid the price for it. Carter didn’t deserve to get executed for his crimes, if that’s what happened that night.

We’re left with unanswered questions, a suspicious scenario and another dead young black man. I wonder how many times we have to go through this before we change our ways.

Carter’s death comes on the heels of the Trayvon Martin controversy and the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in southeast Dallas, and will undoubtedly become part of a long, bloody and infamous history of violence perpetrated on African-American males in this country upon the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation.