Lonoke County, AR – A former Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy charged with manslaughter in the death of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain was found guilty of the lesser misdemeanor charge of negligent homicide on Friday morning and sentenced to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
A Lonoke County jury deliberated for less than three hours on March 18 after a weeks-long trial, the Associated Press reported.
The sentencing hearing was held immediately after the verdict was rendered, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
Davis received the maximum possible sentence for misdemeanor negligent homicide.
Brittain’s family members were not satisfied with the outcome because they wanted Davis convicted of a felony so that he could never work as a law enforcement officer again, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
“We were willing to let him go for a long probation, but we wanted that felony,” Rebecca Payne, Brittain’s grandmother, said. “He will never be forgotten. He meant a lot to us. We are not going to forget about him ever.”
“It is what it is,” Hunter’s uncle, Jesse Brittain, told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “We don’t like it, but we accept it.”
The fatal shooting occurred at approximately 3 a.m. on June 23, 2021 after then-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 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.”
King claimed Brittain was unarmed during the fatal encounter, KATV reported.
Sgt. Davis, an eight-year veteran of the department, was immediately placed on administrative leave while the investigation was conducted, as is protocol for all deputy-involves shootings, the LCSO said in a press release on June 23, 2021. h
Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley later released a video statement that explained he had terminated Sgt. Davis for failing to follow department policy and activate his bodycam.
“I gave my deputies bodycameras,” he said. “I directed them to use the bodycameras properly. Our policy says the deputy must activate the camera before encountering any member of the public, and while taking official action, and certainly as part of any traffic stop.”
“My review of this deputy’s actions has determined that he did not activate his bodycamera in a timely way,” Sheriff Staley continued. “This means there is no video of the actual shooting. We see the aftermath, but not the shooting. Due to that failure, I have terminated the employment of that deputy.”
The special prosecutor filed manslaughter charges against the 30-year-old former sergeant for the shooting of Brittain in September of 2021.
Manslaughter is a class C felony that carries a sentence of three to seven years in prison, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Misdemeanor negligent homicide, the lesser charge the jury found Davis guilty of, is punishable by up to one year behind bars, according to the Associated Press.