Deputy pleads not guilty in fatal shooting of Arkansas teen

LONOKE, Ark. (AP) — A former Arkansas sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty Monday in the fatal shooting of a white teenager whose death has drawn the attention of civil rights activists.

Michael Davis entered the plea to a felony count of manslaughter in the June 23 shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Davis shot Brittain during a traffic stop outside an auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a city of about 26,000 people roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. Davis was charged in September in Brittain’s death.

Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck after the teen reached into the back of his truck and did not comply with his commands to show his hands, according to Davis’ arrest affidavit. Brittain was holding a container — which his family members have said held antifreeze — and no evidence of firearms were found in or near the truck, the affidavit said.

A passenger with Brittain said he and the teen had been working on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger told investigators he never heard Davis tell the teen to show his hands, according to the affidavit.

Davis, who is white, was fired by Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in July for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting occurred. Staley said there’s no footage from the shooting, only the aftermath.

A jury trial for Davis was set for March 15, with a status hearing set for Jan. 24 and a pre-trial hearing on March 14.

Brittain’s death has drawn the attention of civil rights activists, and was eulogized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorneys for George Floyd’s family. Floyd died in May last year when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin the handcuffed Black man’s neck to the ground. His death sparked nationwide protests over policing and racial inequality.

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