CABOT, Ark. – After an emotional day, with Michael Davis taking the stand, the jury went into deliberation for about two hours before deciding to pick things back up at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Originally, the jury was set to deliberate after a brief bathroom break, but one juror was taken away by ambulance after he was found to be in medical distress. An alternate juror was then called in.
After returning from lunch, Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Phillips began to question Michael Davis asking him about his efforts to render medical aid as seen in the bodycam video.
Davis said after flipping Hunter Brittain over he heard a groan. As Davis began to cry on the stand, he said he then went to his vehicle to get his gloves with concern over him suffocating but was pulled away by Cabot police before he could retrieve the gloves.
Both families at this gasped in the courtroom and many began to wipe their eyes, Davis continued to cry.
Davis said that it wasn’t feasible to say “I’ll shoot”, before firing his weapon, Philips argued that if he could give multiple commands he could have said that he would shoot.
Davis admitted that if he didn’t say any commands before firing that it would be considered recklessness.
Phillips asked if Hunter ever looked his way or turned towards him, Davis didn’t think so, was looking towards the back of the truck bed but never looked at Davis. Phillips also asked about Davis’ Adderall prescription, with Davis saying it helps him focus when he needs to complete lots of paperwork, but that he doesn’t take it every single day on duty.
Defense Attorney Robert Newcomb then begins to question Davis, asking when Davis knew he was going to shoot Hunter and he says when he wasn’t following commands and put both hands in the truck bed. Davis said if the threat is imminent, he argues, then you don’t have to see their hands to shoot.
Davis starts to cry again, and unprompted, says “I didn’t know he was a kid.” And something along the lines of “I’m the one who shot him.” Davis is given water to calm him down.
Newcomb asks if it’s accurate that Hunter’s friend Jordan said that Hunter opened his door and immediately was shot. Davis says no.
The prosecution then begins closing arguments, telling the jury that they are the ‘finder of facts.”
The State’s main argument is that evidence shows he did not give commands, and even if he did he never said “I’ll shoot” which he should have, and Hunter was not facing towards him. They said they don’t think Davis is a liar but it was a traumatic time and he may have not said commands but thinks he did.
The State argued that via the transcript of his interview with ASP that Davis does not meet the threshold for reasonable cause for deadly force, that he was acting with fear and not facts. And that not seeing Hunter’s hands did not give Davis a pass to shoot, saying the facts did not point to a viable cause for a deadly shooting.
The Defense then begins closing arguments.
Newcomb says that law enforcement wants to serve their community, look at the person for credibility.
Newcomb’s argument is based on the “totality of circumstances” leading up to the shooting, focusing on the “strange” behavior of Hunter’s truck, how a series of things would have led Davis to be on alert when he made the traffic stop.
He says the autopsy is consistent with Davis’ testimony, brings into question Jordan’s testimony by saying Hunter was NOT shot right when he opened the door (although what Jordan actually said was right when he opened HIS door, he heard a shot).
Newcomb cites his expert witness; says he didn’t HAVE to say I’ll shoot and shooting someone without seeing their hands isn’t necessarily wrong if the officer believes his life is in danger. He said all the evidence points to Davis believing he was going to be killed and that it was reasonable to use deadly force.
Newcomb said, “It’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.”
Phillips then made a rebuttal, saying emotions shouldn’t rule decisions, and that Hunter was never facing the man that shot him.
Phillips said three things had to happen for Hunter to become deadly.
Phillips continued by saying, Hunter would have had to actually pull out the gun that Davis thought he had in the truck, He would have needed to reposition his hands to then fire that gun and then turn toward Davis to aim and shoot.
Phillips then said that the jury would have to judge the credibility of the two boys who watched their friend die and that there is no accountability if the shooting is justified, and it sets precedence to shoot first and ask questions later.
He then said to the jury, “Oftentimes, the hardest decisions we make are the right ones.”
The jury will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday.
ORIGINAL STORY – A fired Lonoke County deputy took the stand in his own defense Thursday, saying he “didn’t want to hurt anybody” but also claiming a teen he shot and killed during a traffic stop looked “100% like he was reaching for a rifle.”
Day 3 of the trial for Michael Davis saw the defense begin calling witnesses including the former deputy himself. He was questioned by his attorney for nearly an hour and a half, talking about his years of service with the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office and the training he received.
Recalling the day of the shooting in June of last year, Davis said he was covering the district of a lower-ranking deputy as she was working on reports. He noted that he did not keep his body camera on because he thought doing so would drain the battery, so he said he would turn the camera on when responding to calls.
Davis testified that he spotted a truck being driven by 17-year-old Hunter Brittain smoking and making loud noises while stopped in the middle of the road with taillights showing the vehicle was in reverse. Davis said he ran the license plate on the vehicle and that the registration came back to an out-of-town address. He said that detail, combined with the driving in between lanes, the smoking vehicle and time of day, led him to call another deputy and initiate a traffic stop.
The former deputy then gave his account of the stop, saying Brittain jumped out of the truck and ran to the back of the vehicle. Davis said he gave commands to the teen as he was getting out of his patrol vehicle but that the teen did not “acknowledge him” and instead stuck his hands into the truck bed. He also said he turned on his body camera but noted that he could not hit the record button since the camera was still booting up.
Davis claimed Brittain looked “100% like he was reaching for a rifle” when the deputy fired from about 20 feet away. The testimony brought tears to the families of both Davis and Brittain, even driving the teen’s grandmother to leave the room.
“I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” Davis testified before adding that, “I promised my little girl I would come home.”
Prior to Davis taking the stand, the defense also called Deputy Nathan Rice, the first other deputy on the scene following the shooting. Rice said he heard the call over the radio for the traffic stop and then for shots fired, at which point he said he turned on his body camera. He testified that deputies normally would not activate the cameras until they exited their vehicles and also said he was not certain of what specific training he received from the sheriff’s office on when to say “I’ll shoot” during a stop.
Lt. Michael Gebhardt then took the stand to discuss the training Davis would have received as part of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, noting that the fired deputy had high marks except for comments of a “lead foot,” which Gebhardt said was common for young deputies.
Gebhardt testified that it is not acceptable for a suspect during a stop to hide their hands, saying that an officer can’t “know if they’re hiding an object that could harm you.” He also said officers are trained to give verbal warnings that they will shoot if possible and feasible, which led to a discussion of what would constitute a “feasible” situation.
Prosecutors asked Gebhardt if not seeing a suspect’s hands during a traffic stop would lead to a license to shoot, with the lieutenant replying “No.”
An expert witness for the defense, Glenn Corbit, testified that he believed Davis was in compliance with his previous training during the stop, disputing a witness called by prosecutors the day prior. When questioned by the defense, he also claimed an officer’s opinion of “jeopardy” is up to their own perception of the situation and if they feel their life is at risk.
Testimony resumed Thursday afternoon, with the prosecutor cross-examining Davis and closing arguments, which finished after 4 p.m.
Before the jury was set to get the case, one juror was rushed away from the trial in an ambulance due to an unspecified medical emergency.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.