Arkansas Cop Found Guilty of Negligent Homicide in Unarmed Teen's Death

A former Lonoke County, Arkansas, sheriff's deputy was found guilty of negligent homicide Friday in the shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain.

Michael Davis, the former officer, shot Brittain in June of 2021, when Davis stopped his truck and told him to show his hands. Brittain reached to the back of the vehicle, which Davis testified looked "100 percent like he was reaching for a rifle," KARK-TV reported.

It was one of about 100 police shootings in Arkansas since 2015, according to the Washington Post's police shooting database. Though the majority of police shooting victims are young men, shootings of those under age 19 are less common, according to the data.

The shooting sparked public outrage, with Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley firing Davis a week later as a result of Davis breaking policy by not having his body camera turned on, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.

Davis turned the camera on only after the shooting. The footage was shown publicly for the first time during the former deputy's hearing on Tuesday, according to the Democrat Gazette. The video showed him yelling at a second teen, who was sitting in the passenger seat, as well as yelling, "The guy jumped out of the f------ truck. Grabbed a f------ oil can."

Though Davis also faced a manslaughter charge, which is a felony, the jury ruled he was not guilty of that charge, KARK added. The negligent homicide charge is a misdemeanor. A sentencing date has not yet been determined. Davis could be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

In an interview with KTHV-TV, Davis said he pulled over Brittain's truck when he heard "the truck's engine rev up and then began to travel southbound in the northbound lane." The teen who was with Brittain told police they were test driving the truck after making repairs on it and were laughing because of the smoke that was coming out of it, the report added.

Though Davis said he gave "several commands" for Brittain to show his hands before shooting, the other teen said he never heard any commands, the local news station reported. Davis turned himself in almost three months later, when a warrant was issued for his arrest on the manslaughter charge.

Staley said in a statement to Newsweek that he has been "following this case closely," even though Davis no longer works for the sheriff's office.

"I respect the decision of the jury," Staley said. "As I have said since day one, this was a tragic event and we all need to continue praying for those involved."

Rebecca Payne, Brittain's grandmother, told reporters the family was hoping for a felony conviction because they did not want Davis to work in law enforcement again.

"Now what's going to happen?" she said. "Are people going to have to fear for their lives again?"

Update 3/21/22, 11:37 a.m. ET: This story was updated with a statement from Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley.

Police Officer Convicted of Negligent Homicide
A former Arkansas sheriff's deputy was convicted of negligent homicide in the shooting death of a teen. Stock Image/Getty Images