A Pulaski County circuit judge Tuesday declined to reduce the $500,000 bail of a 23-year-old murder case defendant after hearing testimony that police had to ram the man's car head-on to arrest him, minutes after the June slaying of 22-year-old Aaren Michael Daniels in downtown Little Rock.
"It's lucky he didn't kill the Arkansas Highway policeman," Judge Barry Sims said at the conclusion of the bond hearing for Kameron Bernard Carpenter of Little Rock.
Daniels was shot to death in front of the Paradise Funeral Home at West Second and South Cross streets, where he and Carpenter had just attended a funeral wake for a mutual friend.
Immediately after the shooting, Carpenter took a friend's car and fled with at least 10 police cars in pursuit, lights flashing and sirens blaring, Little Rock detective Terry McDaniel told the judge.
McDaniel said police were able to muster so many officers so quickly because of the added police presence in the area related to ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd. Some of the responding officers were so close they had heard the gunfire, McDaniel said.
Carpenter, driving his friend's black Chevrolet Impala, sped west on Second Street then turned south on South Chester Street, the detective told the judge.
Heading toward Interstate 630, Carpenter showed no signs of stopping, so when he drove into oncoming traffic lanes at the Fourth Street intersection, Highway Police officer William Cash crashed his department sport utility vehicle head-on into Carpenter to end the chase, according to McDaniel. Authorities reported finding a .40-caliber pistol in the Impala, the same caliber of weapon that had killed Daniels.
Carpenter is charged with first-degree murder and felony fleeing, plus two counts of aggravated assault because two bullets fired during the slaying struck a nearby car where Jyree Neal and Whitney Bazelle were seated, according to reports.
Carpenter did not testify, but his defense attorney told the judge that Daniels had been the aggressor in the fatal encounter between the men, and that Carpenter had fired his gun because he was afraid of what Daniels was about to do.
According to police, Carpenter and the Impala owner had just gotten into the car to leave when Daniels walked up to the driver's side of the car and leaned in to speak to Carpenter. The men argued, but the substance of the disagreement was not disclosed in court. Daniels then reached into the car and punched Carpenter, who was sitting in the passenger seat, police say.
Daniels then walked around the back of the vehicle toward the passenger door. Carpenter got out and shot Daniels as he approached, according to police. Daniels was hit six times, once in the chest, twice in the back and three times in the arm and hands, reports say.
Carpenter got back into the car and sped off, leaving behind the owner, Taylor Forrest, who had run into the funeral home to escape the gunfire, police reported. Investigators collected a dozen shell casings at the scene, 10 from a .40-caliber pistol and two from a 9mm handgun.
Forrest told police that he didn't know why the encounter between the men ended in gunfire, and police could find no evidence that Daniels had been armed, reports say.
It's not surprising that Carpenter chose to flee the scene, given how many friends of Daniels' were present, defense attorney Ron Davis told the judge
He said Carpenter had every right to fear Daniels at that moment. Daniels had initiated the argument, punched his client in the face and then started moving toward him, Davis said.
Carpenter's only escape route from the car then put him face-to-face with Daniels as Daniels moved toward him, wearing loose-fitting clothing that could have concealed a gun, Davis said.
"You can tell that Mr. Daniel wasn't afraid of Mr. Carpenter," Davis said. "He approached the car. He hit my client and then he was coming at him," Davis said.
Carpenter's mother, Chandra Springer, told investigators that Daniels had been threatening her son for some time, the attorney noted.
None of those alleged threats had ever been reported to authorities, senior deputy prosecutor Leigh Patterson countered. Springer also told police that she had told her son not to take his gun to the service, the prosecutor said.
Daniels was the only one who reported to police that Carpenter had been threatening him, Patterson said. Daniels first reported being threatened by Carpenter on Nov. 19. Six days later, Carpenter reported that Daniels had burglarized his home, with Daniels reporting the next day, Nov. 26, that Carpenter had tried to shoot him, according to authorities. No arrests were made in any of those reports.
Patterson called on the judge to keep Carpenter's bail at its current level, asking him to consider the circumstances of the slaying and what police had to do to stop Carpenter. She said prosecutors will be filing more charges against Carpenter related to the police crash.
"[Carpenter] certainly was not stopping on his own," Patterson said, arguing that he had opened fire in front of a funeral home that had been packed to capacity with mourners. "There were so many people put in danger by Mr. Carpenter."
The men had been attending a service for Keshun Da'Juan Clemmons, 22, who died May 30 in Little Rock.