Arkansas police beating update: Officers identified, suspended – USA TODAY

Arkansas State Police and federal officials were investigating Monday after three local officers were seen on video beating a man during an arrest Sunday outside a convenience store in Mulberry.
Two deputies and an officer have been suspended with pay, Col. Bill Bryant said Monday. They were identified as Crawford County sheriff’s deputies Zack King and Levi White and Mulberry police officer Thell Riddle, the sheriff’s office said.
In the short video shared widely on social media, the three officers are seen punching a man in the head and kneeing him several times as they pinned him down. At one point, a bystander calls out to them and an officer points at the camera ordering the person to stop recording.
Officers were responding to a report of a man making threats, authorities said. The suspect was taken to the hospital, arrested on several charges and later released on bail.
State police said Sunday they would investigate the use of force. Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante said during a news conference Monday that the incident is being investigated by Arkansas state police “as a criminal act.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson commented on the video during a news conference Monday, calling it “reprehensible conduct.”
“That response was not consistent with the training that they receive,” he said. “This is not what our law enforcement community represents. It’s not the proper response.”
Here’s what we know about the incident:
The incident began Sunday morning when officers responded to the convenience store to a report of a man making threats in Mulberry, about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock.
The video, which appears to be recorded from a nearby car, shows officers holding down the suspect, later identified as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina. One officer repeatedly punched Worcester in the head, grabbed him by the hair and appeared to slam his face into the pavement. Another struck him with his knee as the third helped restrain him.
“This is bad,” a bystander can be heard saying as the officers beat Worcester.
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The suspect, Worcester, was taken to a local hospital to be examined and treated before being booked at the Crawford County Jail in Van Buren, state police said. 
He was jailed on complaints of second degree burglary, resisting arrest, refusal to submit, possessing an instrument of crime, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, terroristic threatening, and second degree assault, according to Arkansas State Police. A Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney’s office spokeswoman said no charges have been filed Monday against Worcester.
“This office recognizes the horrific nature of the activity portrayed by the video,” the attorney’s office said in a statement. “Despite the activity that is shown in the video, these officers are presumed innocent at this time.”
Sheriff Damante said Worcester told the police he had a weapon during the altercation, and at “one point handed it over to the officer.” He didn’t clarify what type of weapon Worcester had or when he handed it over to police. 
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According to the sheriff, Worcester “became violent” and the officers “admitted that they had to use force to submit him.” Hutchinson said Monday that Worcester had a “history” that caused legitimate concern for the officers.
Worcester was released Monday afternoon from the Crawford County Jail in Van Buren after posting $15,000 bond, a jailer said.
One of Worcester’s attorneys, David Powell, said Worcester is in “good spirits” despite injuries to his head, elbows, and knees after Sunday’s incident.
“What he went through yesterday was horrific,” Powell said. He says he hopes to have the complaints dismissed against Worcester.
Both Arkansas State Police and federal officials are launching an investigation into the violent arrest, Damante said Monday. The FBI, and possibly the Department of Justice, will get involved for “civil rights violations,” he said. 
The two county deputies, King and White, will be suspended amid the ongoing investigation, according to the sheriff. 
Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory said Riddle, a patrolman who has been with the department since March 2017, is on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Once the investigation is complete, the case file will be sent to the Crawford County prosecuting attorney who will determine if the use of force by the officers was legal. Bryant said prosecutors will also decide whether to release footage from the incident.
None of the officers were wearing body cameras, Damante said, but the Mulberry police officer recorded dash cam footage of the incident.
Mulberry Mayor Gary Baxter said the city will take the results of the investigation seriously and take steps to ensure an incident like this “never happens again.”
“I, like many of you, was shocked and sickened by what I saw,” he said in a statement Sunday. “The safety and security of all who come in contact with our officers is our top priority and I will endeavor to the best of my ability to make sure that this is always the case.”
When asked if the video would result in more training for police, speakers at the news conference noted law enforcement officers in Arkansas must attend 24 hours of training on their duty to intervene. Hutchinson said training increased at the recommendation of a law enforcement task force created in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent nationwide protests.
“Now the challenge is that you can train you can train you can train, but, you know, officers have to be able to follow that training and put it into practice,” he said.
None of the officers “are rookies,” Damante said, adding “they have been in law enforcement for some time.”
Mulberry Police Officer Thell Riddle was highlighted as the department’s newest member in 2017, according to a Facebook post by the city of Mulberry. 
Earlier this month, Baxter posted on Facebook praising Riddle and others for “interacting with children to build positive relationships between children and Fire and Law Enforcement personnel in our communities” during a National Night Out event. 
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Riddle previously worked as the Police Chief in Gans, Oklahoma, until March 2017, Gans Mayor Gary McGinnis confirmed to USA TODAY. Gans, an area of about 300 residents, is located about 40 miles west of Mulberry. Riddle worked at the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department back in 2000, Damante said.
McGinnis said his personnel file wasn’t immediately available. While Riddle left before he became mayor, McGinnis said he wasn’t aware of any disciplinary issues. 
The attorney representing the two Crawford County deputies involved in the incident disputed accusations of excessive force in a news release Monday, saying the “compliance strikes” by officers in the video “were used exactly as trained.” 
“There is another video from the Mulberry Police Department’s patrol unit that shows the full, unedited version of events that occurred and this has not been released,” Attorney Russell A. Wood wrote Monday.
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According to his attorney, Deputy White responded to a call of someone threatening to cut a woman’s face off with his knife. When the deputy made contact with the suspect, he allegedly provided a false identity and “became irate and viciously attacked Deputy White by grabbing him by the legs, lifting him up and body slamming him, head first, on the concrete parking lot,” Wood wrote.
White sustained a concussion as a result, according to his attorney. 
“In this case, this violent suspect showed his willingness to commit serious violence and then he continued to resist arrest, spit and bite at the officers, and refused to allow the officers to get the handcuffs on him- hence the necessity for three officers,” the attorney’s statement reads. 
Contributing: The Associated Press


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