By JEANNIE NUSS
Associated Press reporter
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The mother of a young man who authorities say fatally shot himself while handcuffed in the backseat of an Arkansas patrol car has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Jonesboro, its police chief and two officers.
Lawyers for Chavis Carter's mother, Teresa Rudd, filed the federal lawsuit on Friday — almost a year to the day after Carter's death.
Jonesboro police have faced criticism about the circumstances surrounding the July 28, 2012 death of Carter. Officers said they searched him twice without finding a gun, but later noticed him slumped over and bleeding in the back of the patrol car.
An autopsy concluded that Carter, 21, shot himself in the head while he was under the influence of meth, but his family last year demanded more answers about his death.
Rudd, whose filed her lawsuit on her behalf and that of her son's estate, is seeking unspecified damages, including money for medical expenses and the loss of his life.
Neither Police Chief Michael Yates nor one of Rudd's attorneys, Darrell O'Neal, responded to phone messages left Sunday.
The two officers named in the lawsuit — Keith Baggett and Ronald Marsh — didn't respond to a message left at the police department either. Online court records didn't list attorneys for any of the defendants.
Police said last year that an internal investigation found no wrongdoing on Baggett's part, but Marsh was reprimanded for not properly searching Carter following a traffic stop. Authorities said two searches of Carter turned up a small amount of marijuana, but no gun.
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Both officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, although Yates said last August that they had since returned to work.
Carter's death ignited questions about race because Carter was black and the two officers involved in the traffic stop are white.
The case drew Rev. Jesse Jackson to the area to march with Carter's mother.
"We hope that people concerned about justice, white and black, would find some common ground as we pursue this case of justice," Jackson told reporters in Memphis, Tenn., hours marching in Jonesboro last year. "We simply want justice and fairness in the land. ... We are convinced the explanations given so far are not credible ones."
Rudd's lawsuit mentions race, too, but it focuses on what it says is police negligence.
"Defendants Marsh and Baggett committed acts and omissions constituting negligence ... Failure to properly observe, maintain, or otherwise protect Chavis Carter's safety while he was in police custody," the lawsuit says.
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