Ex-Sheriff's Deputy Charged With Manslaughter in Shooting of Teenager Hunter Brittain

The former sheriff's deputy in Arkansas who fatally shot a white teenager, now a central focus of national civil rights activists, was charged with manslaughter on Friday.

Michael Davis, a former sergeant with Lonoke County Sheriff's Office, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted for the shooting death of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain.

Davis shot the teenager during a June 23 traffic stop near an auto repair shop on Arkansas Highway 89. The teen's uncle Jesse Brittain, told reporters he was happy with the charges but would have liked to see something more severe.

"This is something," he told reporters after the announcement. "We're going to take this and see what else [Phillips] has got to say and hopefully this will stick. He won't be an officer no more, and he can't kill no more kids."

Hunter Brittain
Michael Davis faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted for the shooting death of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain. Above, attorney Ben Crump stands next to Brittain's casket at the Beebe High School Auditorium before his memorial service in Beebe, Arkansas, on July 6. Andrew Demillo, File/AP Photo

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck during the traffic stop after the teen reached into the back of his truck and did not comply with his commands to show his hands, according to the 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.

An attorney for Davis did not immediately return a message Friday morning.

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.

Several members of Brittain's family and friends shouted, "Thank you, Jesus," as Phillips announced the charge. Phillips said a bond hearing for Davis would be held on Monday.

Brittain was eulogized by the Reverend Al Sharpton and two attorneys who represented George Floyd's family. They said the teen's death highlighted the need for interracial support for efforts to reform police practices. Brittain's family and friends have regularly demonstrated outside the Lonoke County sheriff's office, demanding more details on the shooting.

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. Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests over policing and racial inequality.

Attorneys Ben Crump and Devon Jacob, who represent Floyd's family, joined with Brittain's family in calling the charge the "first step in the pursuit of justice for Hunter Brittain." And Brittain's family repeated its call for the Arkansas Legislature to require officers to wear body cameras that would be turned on as soon as their shift begins.

"Nothing will bring Hunter back, but we can honor his memory and legacy by calling for justice and change in his name," the attorneys and family said in a statement.