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Activists Scream At Sheriff, Do Burnouts To Protest Shooting Of 17-Year-Old Hunter Brittain

Lonoke, AR – Activists protested the officer-involved shooting death of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain by doing burnouts in the sheriff’s office parking lot and screaming at the Lonoke County sheriff late last week.

The fatal shooting occurred at approximately 3 a.m. on June 23, after Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Sergeant Michael Davis stopped Brittain on Arkansas 89 near Mahoney’s Body Shop, KATV reported.

Jordan King, 16, said he and Brittain had been working on changing the transmission on Brittain’s truck so he would be able to use it to get to work the next morning.

King said their families are friends with the owners of Mahoney’s Body Shop, so they worked on the truck there.

He said they were pulled over as they were test-driving the vehicle to see if the repairs they made had worked, KATV reported.

According to King, the truck wouldn’t shift into park and they were afraid the vehicle would roll into Sgt. Davis’ patrol car, so Brittain jumped out to place an oil jug behind the tire to stop the truck from moving, KATV reported.

He said he did not hear the sergeant issue any commands to Brittain before the gunfire rang out.

“They didn’t say one word that I know of,” King told KATV. “I didn’t hear it and it happened so fast.”

A second deputy arrived moments later.

“[He] told me get out with my hands up and pull my shirt up and stuff, and then took me to the ground, put me in handcuffs and was dragging me around and stuff,” King told KATV. “And then I sat in the back of the cop car for about three hours.”

He said he was later interviewed by the ASP.

King claimed Brittain was unarmed during the encounter.

According to Brittain’s uncle, Jesse Brittain, the teen was transported to Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock by helicopter, where he succumbed to his wounds, KATV reported.

He said doctors at the hospital told him that his nephew was hiding in a wooded area and opened fire on police prior to the fatal shooting.

“I shut that down very quickly and corrected him on that,” Jesse Brittain told KATV.

The investigation into the fatal June 23 shooting remains ongoing and details regarding what led up to Sgt. Davis firing his weapon have not been released, KATV reported.

But Brittain’s family has already demanded that Sgt. Davis be fired and sent to prison.

“I am not a vengeful person, but this police officer doesn’t need to be a police officer,” Brittain’s grandmother, Rebecca Payne, declared in an interview with KATV. “There needs to be more training… I want him to not ever be able to carry a weapon again. And if this is means he’s going to prison, then that’s what it’s going to have to take.”

Payne said she raised Brittain “for the last five years of his life.”

“We’re ready to find out something. It’s time they start letting us know something,” she said.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley released a video statement on June 24 urging the public to remain calm and to allow time for the investigation to be completed.

He said he has met with Brittain’s family and that he prayed with them after the teen’s death.

“Like everyone, I want to know exactly what happened,” Sheriff Staley said.

He noted he immediately asked the Arkansas State Police (ASP) to handle the investigation to ensure transparency and accountability, and said he has already handed over bodycam footage from the incident to investigators.

“State police are gathering the facts and they know much more than I do,” the sheriff said, adding that he completely supported releasing the bodycam footage when the law and the ASP deemed it appropriate to do so.

“In potentially dangerous situations, deputies are often forced to make split-second decisions,” Sheriff Staley said. “Second-guessing those decisions, especially when the facts are still unclear, is dangerous and unfair. We all want the truth. We all want justice. But I humbly ask everyone to avoid rushing to judgement until the investigation is over.”

He noted that some people have demanded he take immediate action prior to the completion of the investigation.

“Sadly, on social media, some people are demanding I take action without waiting for evidence,” the sheriff said. “That’s irresponsible, and I won’t do it. I also know there’s a lot of misinformation on social media and the internet. Don’t believe it. Let’s all wait until the facts are confirmed.”

Sheriff Staley vowed that if any LCSO employee was found to have violated department policy or the law, he would hold them accountable.

“For now, let’s allow the investigation to continue,” he said.

Sgt. Davis, an eight-year veteran of the department, has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is pending, as is protocol for all deputy-involves shootings, the LCSO said in a press release on June 23.

Hundreds of people turned up at the LCSO after Sheriff Staley’s statement was released, KARK reported.

Members of the group did burnouts in the parking lot and yelled for the sheriff to come outside to speak with them.

They also painted the words “Justice for Hunter” on the glass front doors of the building, KARK reported.

Sheriff Staley headed outside to meet with the group about 15 minutes after the burnouts began.

The mob screamed at him incoherently as he stood in the middle of them, video footage from the scene showed.

Harley Brittain, another of Brittain’s uncles, said the shooting proved law enforcement reform was needed, KATV reported.

“This is happening all across the country and this is happening too close to home for us,” Harley Brittain declared. “If he felt like he was in danger, he’s got a Taser on his hip. He didn’t reach for that. He reached for his gun and shot a 17-year-old boy in cold blood, in his throat.”

Brittain’s cousin, Jasmine Brittain, said that Sgt. Davis should be behind bars.

“He should be in jail. He should be in prison,” she told KATV.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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