Justice Department launches federal civil rights investigation into violent Arkansas arrest caught on video

The Department of Justice has opened a federal civil rights investigation into violent arrest of a 27-year-old man in Arkansas Sunday, a department spokesperson confirmed to CBS News on Monday. The investigation will be separate from the state’s investigation into the arrest, which was videotaped.

The video shows the three officers repeatedly punching Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina. One officer repeatedly punches Worcester with a clenched fist while another knees him several times in the lower body. The officers are also seen slamming Worcester’s head against the pavement.

Crawford County Sheriff Jim Damante said Monday that none of the three officers were wearing body cameras. Police officer Mulberry’s vehicle was equipped with an on-board camera.

“The dash cam brings to light other things that happened there that weren’t captured by the citizen cam,” Damante said.

Also on Monday, officials identified the three law enforcement officials who were suspended for the arrest: Crawford County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Zack King and Levi White and Mulberry Police Officer, Thell Riddle.

Officers were responding to a report of a man making threats outside a convenience store on Sunday in the small town of Mulberry, about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock near the Oklahoma border, officials said. authorities.

Suspended Officers-Video
A car is parked in front of the Kountry Xpress in Mulberry, Ark. Three law enforcement officers have been suspended after video posted to social media showed a South Carolina man being held to the ground and beaten by police. Arkansas State Police said Sunday night they would investigate officers’ use of force earlier in the day outside the convenience store in Mulberry, about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Andrew DeMillo/AP

According to Damante, a man allegedly made “terrorist threats” against a gas station employee. The man, identified as Worcester, allegedly threatened to cut off the employee’s face at some point. He then left and cycled about seven miles before officers caught up with him.

Damante claims Worcester, who is white, handed the officers a knife and then ‘the football tackled’ one of the MPs and punched him in the back of the head. The violent arrest captured on video then followed, according to Damante.

None of the officers were rookies, Damante said Monday, telling reporters that all three had been with law enforcement for some time. The sheriff’s office is conducting an internal investigation in addition to the Arkansas State Police’s criminal investigation, Damante said.

Worcester was first taken to a local hospital for treatment. After his release, he was taken to Van Buren County Jail.

Worcester was charged with battery in the second degree, resisting arrest, refusing to submit, possession of an instrument of crime, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, threatening terrorism and assault in the second degree, police said.

Worcester was released Monday on $15,000 bail. When asked how he felt, he replied “okay”.

Carrie Jernigan, an attorney representing Worcester, told CBS News she filed a separate excessive force complaint for another client against Deputy White.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, on Monday called the beatings “misconduct” and said the officers’ actions were “not consistent” with the teachings of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.

Arkansas State Police Col. Bill Bryant said his agency’s investigation “would take time.”

“Once we get the facts and evidence, we’ll prepare a case and summary and deliver it to the prosecutor,” Bryant said.

Cellphone video of often violent police interactions has shed light on officers’ conduct in recent years, particularly since the 2020 killing of George Floyd while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.

The resulting nationwide protests drew attention to the brutality of officers that often targets black Americans.

The front door of a building that serves as Mulberry Police Headquarters and City Hall was locked on Monday. A sign on the door urged anyone with questions about the “police investigation” to contact the Arkansas State Police.

Amid public pressure for transparency and the proliferation of videos exposing police misconduct, there have been some backlash against check-in officers. In July, the governor of Arizona signed a bill that makes it illegal to knowingly record officers 8 feet or less without permission.

Mulberry is a town of 1,600 people located on the southern edge of the Ozarks in western Arkansas, just off Interstate 40, which connects California to North Carolina.

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