The trial for a former Lonoke County Sheriff's Deputy accused of killing an unarmed teenager during a traffic stop happened this week.
A jury found former Lonoke County Sgt. Michael Davis guilty of negligent homicide in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain.
Davis, who was originally charged with felony manslaughter, fatally shot Brittain who was test-driving his truck after working on it all night.
It's a case that's gained national attention and one that has greatly impacted the community of Lonoke and across Arkansas.
Chapter 1: The shooting of Hunter Brittain
On June 23, 2021, 17-year-old Hunter Brittain was test driving his truck after making repairs early in the morning when he was pulled over by former Lonoke County Sgt. Mike Davis near a body shop in Cabot.
According to the affidavit, when Brittain pulled over and got out of the car, he started moving to the truck bed as the truck was rolling backward toward Davis' patrol car.
As Brittain did this, Davis shot one round at Brittain in his lower right neck.
Jordan King was the passenger in the truck at the time of the shooting and was placed into custody by Davis and another unnamed deputy. Brittain was transferred to a nearby hospital where he died from the gunshot wound.
While investigating the incident, Lonoke County Sheriff's Office discovered that Davis' body camera footage had only been turned on after Brittain had been shot.
In an interview with Davis, he said he initiated the traffic stop of Brittain's white GMC truck and heard "the truck's engine rev up and then began to travel southbound in the northbound lane." Davis did not report at the time that he was in pursuit because he realized the truck was attempting to turn left into the body shop.
Davis told authorities he gave "several commands" to Brittain to get back in his car and to show his hands as Brittain reached with both hands into the bed of the truck when he fired his weapon.
When Brittain was shot, Davis said that's when he saw a container in Brittain's hands that fell to the ground.
Davis said he could not see the 17-year-old's hands before shooting.
Jordan King told police that the two had been working on the truck's transmission all night and were test driving it. As they were getting pulled over, King said they were laughing and thought it was funny because the truck was smoking.
King said he never heard any commands from Davis before the gunshot.
No guns were found in Brittain's truck.
Chapter 2: Aftermath of the shooting
"Because the deputy failed to activate his bodycam, he has been terminated," Staley said in his statement.
Staley also said the Lonoke County Sheriff's Office does not have dash cameras on its police vehicles.
Davis turned himself in on Friday, Sept. 17, after the special prosecuting attorney issued an arrest warrant for manslaughter. If convicted, he could face three to 10 years in prison.
On Sept. 20, Davis was released on a $15,000 bond.
Hunter's Uncle, Jesse Brittain, said all they wanted was acknowledgment and an apology.
"I don't think it's fair. My nephew, Hunter, is laying in a grave or refrigeration and this man is going to get to go home," he said.
"[It's] going to cost him $15,000 to go home and be with his family, while we're at a loss. We'll never have Hunter standing with us again."
The family of Brittain has hired Devon Jacob and Benjamin Crump to represent them in the case. Both were lawyers in George Floyd's murder case.
Chapter 3: The trial of Michael Davis
On Nov. 15, former Lonoke County Sgt. Mike Davis plead not guilty to felony manslaughter in the death of Hunter Brittain.
After another pre-trial hearing on March 14, the trial will officially begin on March 15.
There are no cameras allowed inside the courtroom and that's how it's going to be for the remainder of the week and for the rest of this trial.
The trial is taking place at the Cabot Readiness Center, where it was moved from the Lonoke County courthouse, mainly due to the fact that there are not a lot of windows inside the courtroom.
The only ones are at the very top and that's so the jury will not be able to hear anything going on outside.
Scott Hundley said this is the beginning of what's going to be a long week for those close to Brittain.
"It's going to be hard, it's been hard, it's been hard since June," he said.
It's been nine months of fighting and trying to make their voices heard by many, according to Hundley.
"It was cold-blooded murder by the Lonoke police. There's no way around it and nobody's gonna change my mind about it," he said.
"There's a lot of wrongful police and I'm not saying all police are bad because I have law enforcement in my family, but it's the ones, like this, that give them bad names and he needs to be held accountable for it," he said.
Now that the trial has begun, Brittain's Aunt Mary Robertson is praying that that accountability happens in the coming days.
"We're glad that we're finally at this point. We hope that the jury can see the things that we see," she said.
The judge added that no one can wear t-shirts or have any signs on their cars starting on Tuesday, March 15, when jury selection begins at 9 a.m.
Tuesday, March 15, started with jury selection, which took about four hours.
The jury was asked a series of questions related to law enforcement and their opinions.
Ultimately the 12 jurors were seated-- made up of nine women, three men, and two alternates.
After a short break, open arguments started around 2:30 p.m.
The prosecution team explaining that Davis "recklessly" shot Brittain who was unarmed and not dangerous, whereas the defense team, emphasized on the fact that in that moment Davis felt like his life was threatened.
The first witness called to the stand by the prosecution team was 16-year-old Jordan King.
King was in the car with Brittain in the early morning hours of June 23, 2021.
The biggest thing about his testimony was that he said he never heard Davis give any verbal cues until after Brittain was shot.
An investigator with the Arkansas State Police was called to the stand after.
That's when the jury was shown what body camera footage there is in this case, which only shows what happened after Brittain was shot.
It was emotional for witnesses and Brittain's family, many of them had to step out of the courtroom.
The day ended with the body camera footage and testimony will resume on Wednesday, March 16, at 9 a.m.
Second day of trial
During the second day of the trial, the jury watched Davis' recorded interview with state police which was conducted five days after the shooting.
Davis claimed in that interview that he shouted at Brittain to "show me our hands." The former deputy said Brittain wasn't listening and his hands were in the back of the truck and that's when Davis fired at Brittain.
Davis claimed he didn't realize he didn't turn on his body camera until after the shots were fired.
Another witness who was nearby during the shooting said he was at the shop waiting on Brittain and a friend when he heard the gunshots.
He said he never heard any verbal cues from Davis until after the shots were fired.
A medical examiner from the Arkansas State Crime lab that confirmed Brittain was shot in the neck, was also called to the stand on Wednesday.
The last witness called in by prosecution was Davis' former boss, Sheriff John Staley, who told the jury that Davis had issues with turning on his body camera in the past.
The state rested their case and the defense will start on Thursday, March 17, at 9 a.m.
Third day of trial
During the third day of trial, the defense brought up their witnesses.
One of their witnesses included a law enforcement officer who has trained many officers of when to use deadly force.
The witness said that Davis was in compliance with his training. During his instruction it states that you must tell the subject you are going to shoot them before "if possible." Unfortunately no one was ever trained on what the "if possible" meant.
Michael Davis took the stand as the defense's last witness.
The jury learned the character of Davis about how he is a volunteer firefighter, a father, and has a child on the way.
Davis said mentioned several things that led to him firing his gun. He also shared what made him fear for his life, which consequently made him fire his gun.
Davis mentioned Brittain's 'loud' and 'smoking' truck, along with their interaction happening 3 a.m. He also pointed out that Brittain didn't listen to his commands and that he unable to see both of Brittain's hands in the bed of the truck.
Davis said all of these things were the reason he felt afraid for his life and thought Brittain "was going to kill him."
He also got emotional multiple times during his testimony.
Closing arguments lasted a little over an hour. The prosecution told the jury to look at the evidence--if Davis was able to say, which he testified that he did, "show me your hands" and "get back in the vehicle," then he enough time to tell Brittain, "I am going to shoot you."
In their closing arguments, the defense highlighted Davis' character and how he became a police officer to help people, not hurt people.
The defense also added and went through every reason why Davis feared for his life and fired the gun. They added that cops are taught "hands kill" and if you can't see the persons hands, it could be a problem.
Chapter 4: The verdict
After closing arguments, one juror had to leave for a medical emergency and they had to bring in an alternate juror, with deliberation beginning around 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 17.
The following day on March 18, the jury found Michael Davis guilty of negligent homicide in the fatal shooting of Hunter Brittain after 2.5 hours of deliberation.
Davis was originally charged with manslaughter, in a a case that was difficult for everyone involved.
"I didn't say that this defendant was a bad guy. I didn't say he was a mean guy. I just said that he was a good guy that made a really horrible decision and choice and so that makes it even worse," Prosecuting attorney, Jeff Phillips said.
While everyone in the makeshift courtroom in Cabot was quiet when they heard the decision, they said a lot to once they exited the doors.
"I was not happy. 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," Rebecca Payne, Brittain's grandma, said.
The jury finding Davis guilty of negligent homicide instead of manslaughter, is something that worried Payne, as it means Davis could go back to wearing a badge in the future.
"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," she said.
While the verdict isn't something they agree with, the Brittain family said they do accept it.
The family's attorney, Devon Jacob said they aren't going to focus on the charges, but rather look at the meaning behind the jury's decision.
"What the jury said is that a law enforcement officer in uniform committed a crime, and the jury has said that Hunter Brittain was unlawfully killed by Michael Davis. That's what this jury says, that's a strong finding," he said.
Davis was sentenced to 1-year in jail plus a $1,000 fine.
The sentence has resulted in mixed emotions from many parties involved, that all had comments after the verdict.
Prosecuting attorney, Jeff Phillips said the state is fine with the verdict but the sentencing wasn't what they expected.
"We were a bit surprised about this sentencing, and that they were out in about 20 minutes and came back with a maximum sentence," he said.
Even though it's not the ending he wanted, defense attorney Robert Newcomb said juries often go with the lesser charge.
"I was hoping for a not guilty verdict on both charges. I'll say I'm not necessarily surprised by that burden," he said.
No matter which side you looked at, it was a difficult week for everyone. But even after the verdict, the Brittain family said this isn't the end of them telling Hunter's story.
"He will be with us in our hearts and I hope everyone will know that and see that as time goes on and we are not going to forget about Hunter," Payne said.
Moving forward, both Brittain's family and Michael Davis will be involved in separate civil lawsuits against the Lonoke County Sheriff's Office.
Following Davis' sentence, his former boss, Sheriff Staley shared how tragic he thought the entire incident was and that he respects the jury's decision.
"Although Mr. Davis no longer works for my office, I’ve been following this case closely. I respect the decision of the jury. As I have said since day one, this was a tragic event and we all need to continue praying for those involved," Staley said.