Seventeen-year-old Hunter Brittain had spent the night trying to fix the transmission in his truck in order to make it to work that morning when he took the truck for a test drive on a rural state highway in Central Arkansas last year.
It was 3 a.m. on a Wednesday and he was hoping to make it to his construction job by 6 a.m. Joining him was his buddy, Jordan King, 16, who had been helping him with the truck’s transmission.
They had driven a mile down the road and were on their way back to the body shop where they had been working when a Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy pulled up behind them and turned on his emergency lights.
They started laughing because right at that moment, smoke started to fill the cabin of the truck and they found it funny, according to a police interview with King. He also said they both opened their doors to let the smoke out after Brittain had pulled off the highway and come to a stop in a parking lot with the cop pulling in behind them.
But then Brittain realized the transmission was still not working because he was unable to put the truck into park which is why the truck started rolling backwards with no way for him to stop it from inside.
Brittain hopped out the truck and tried to reach into the bed for a can of antifreeze to place it behind the rear tire to keep it from rolling into the cop car but that made the deputy fear for his life.
Davis opened fire, killing the 17-year-old boy with a bullet to his neck. It was only then he noticed the can of antifreeze that Brittain had pulled from the bed of the truck. No guns were found on either teen.
“He wasn’t complying,” testified Davis through tears last week, claiming he had ordered the teen to get back into his car and to show his hands, according to KAIT 8.
“I thought he was going to kill me.”
On Friday, a jury convicted Davis on negligent homicide after acquitting him of manslaughter, a much more serious charge. He was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
Negligent homicide is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year while manslaughter could have sent him to prison for up to 10 years, according to WKBN.
The first witness to testify in last week’s trial was King who said all he heard was the gunshot, no warnings or orders from the deputy. Then he saw his friend laying facedown on the ground.
Soon another deputy arrived and ordered him to the ground handcuffing him and dragging him around. He remained cuffed in the back of a patrol car for three hours, according to ABC 7.
Another witness who was at the body shop working on the transmission waiting for them to return from the test drive also testified he heard no commands from the deputy before he heard the gunshot.
The truth would have been captured on Davis’ body camera had he bothered to turn it on but he did not turn it on until after he had shot the teen which is why he was fired within a week for violating departmental policy, according to KARK.
The misdemeanor conviction means that Davis will be able to work in law enforcement again upon his release which concerns members of Brittain’s family.
“I was not happy,” said Brittain’s grandmother and guardian, Rebecca Payne, according to THV 11. “All I wanted from day one is for him to get a felony where he could not be in law enforcement again and carry a weapon. That’s all I asked for.
“Now, what’s gonna happen? Are people gonna have to fear for their life again? Once he gets back? You know, he’ll go back to force.”
The family now plans to file a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office claiming that Lokone County Sheriff John Staly knew that Davis was supposed to be on medication that night which would have kept him calm but instead allowed him to work without taking the medication. The type of medication has not been specified.
“We have a sheriff who allowed Michael Davis to go on the streets without medication that was supposed to prepare him to be in the right state of mind when he came into contact that night with Hunter Brittain and as a result of the failure of leadership, we have a dead child,” one of the attorneys for the Brittain family told the Daily Citizen.