Arkansas Police Video: 2 deputies suspended and 1 officer on administrative leave after video of violent encounter with man outside store released
At some point in the 34 second video recorded on Sunday, one of the officers also lifts the suspect’s head and slams it against the pavement.
A Facebook post from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department identifies the law enforcement personnel involved as Sheriff’s Deputies Zack King and Levi White and Officer Thell Riddle of the Mulberry Police Department. CNN contacted the deputies and the officer.
The deputies are not rookies and have been with law enforcement “for some time”, while the Mulberry officer has been in the force for “many years” and previously worked for the sheriff’s department, said Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante told reporters Monday. They are suspended with pay, he said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas has confirmed that it has opened a federal civil rights investigation. The FBI Little Rock Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice are also investigating, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office.
Analysts: Use of Force Seems Excessive
The video, which was posted to social media, shows officers restraining an individual – identified by state police as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina – near a sidewalk outside from a company. One officer punches the person in the face and slams their head on the ground, while another knees them on their side and back.
A woman not seen in the video says, “Don’t beat him! He needs his medicine! An officer replies, “Back off the f**k!” while another orders him to get into his car.
“We don’t know what would happen if that person hadn’t filmed,” said Carrie Jernigan, one of Worcester’s attorneys. “The fight was escalating with these officers and you hear this woman screaming on this video, and whoever it was, I think she could have saved her life.”
Damante declined to go into many details, noting that the matter was still under investigation, but said the actions he saw on the video “are not indicative of the Sheriff’s Department of the Crawford County or any law enforcement agency therein”.
Deputies “will be punished for what they have done, if they are found to have breached any of the rights”, the sheriff said.
None of the officers wore body cameras, but Officer Mulberry had a dash cam on his patrol car, which provided details of how the fight started, the sheriff said without giving further details. .
Two senior CNN law enforcement analysts say, judging by the video footage alone, the use of force appears excessive.
Worcester is charged with second degree battery, resisting arrest, possession of an instrumentality of crime, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, threatening terrorism and first and second degree assault, said Arkansas State Police.
The suspect told officers he had a gun, but the sheriff believes Worcester turned it over before the fight started, he told reporters on Monday.
Worcester suffered multiple abrasions to his face, scrapes to his knees, scrapes, a swollen right ear and had his eye gouged out during the altercation with law enforcement, attorney David Powell said .
“A lot of things happened to him that shouldn’t have happened during that altercation,” Powell said.
Worcester was released on $15,000 bail, Powell said. He had his bicycle with him as the lawyers escorted him out of the detention center, and he gave no audible response to a reporter’s question. He will remain with his family, his lawyers said.
“It does not make sense”
For two senior CNN law enforcement analysts, there remain questions about what happened before and after the captured moment. Still, even though Worcester attacked the officers as alleged, the level of force with which they are responding appears excessive, analysts said.
“Especially the blows to the face and head,” said former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey. “At one point you see one of the officers lift his head up and push it down the sidewalk. Obviously that increases the level of force considerably.” It also increases the risk of serious injury or death, he said.
Ramsey continued: “Certainly the blows to the head at the same time as you’re trying to get a person to put their hands behind their back – think about that. It makes no sense. If you get hit in the face, you will raise your hands to try to protect your face.”
Ramsey and fellow CNN analyst Andrew McCabe, a former deputy FBI director, say it’s hard to imagine what might require a violent response from officers.
“It’s important to remember that this video captures only part of the interaction between this individual who was arrested and the three officers,” McCabe said. “It’s important to note that these officers maintain that prior to the video he attacked one of them, punched him in the head, pushed him to the ground. So obviously there was a fight here that led to the use of force.
“However, what we see on this video, it’s very, very hard to say that what you’re seeing – the kind of punches and kneeing him in the back and hitting his head… on the ground. This is unacceptable, normal and standard use of force by police in all circumstances.”
It’s important to consider that there are three officers on one suspect, McCabe said, and lawmen don’t appear to use accepted techniques to handcuff a suspect.
Rather, it appears to be an “incredibly violent assault apparently on a person on the ground and under the control of three officers”, he said. “I find it impossible to justify what you see in this video in any way.”
In the event of an attack, police have the right to respond with necessary, proportionate and objectively reasonable force, Ramsey said, but the responses of Arkansas officers appear neither proportionate nor reasonable. Being attacked “doesn’t give you permission to then use excessive force when taking the individual into custody, period. It just doesn’t,” said the former chief of the police.
Suspect held on $15,000 bond
The person who posted the video online said his sister witnessed the altercation outside the Kountry Xpress in Mulberry.
The Mulberry police officer is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, his department said.
“The City of Mulberry and the Mulberry Police Department take these investigations very seriously and hold all of their officers accountable for their actions,” Mulberry Police said in a statement.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called the officers’ actions ‘misrepresentative conduct in which a suspect is beaten in this manner’ but said the video only shows a ‘snapshot’ of the encounter .
Without giving further details, he said Worcester “has a history of legitimate concern for officers”, but also said the officers’ response was “not consistent” with their training.
“This is not what our law enforcement community stands for. This is the wrong response, and they will be reviewed and appropriate action will be taken in accordance with” the findings of the investigation, the governor said. .
Arkansas State Police released a statement saying their investigation “will be limited to the use of physical force by deputies and the police officer,” and its findings will be submitted to a local prosecutor who will decide whether the use of force was consistent with the rule of law. A spokesperson told CNN the statement was the office’s only comment on the matter.