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Oklahoma family sues after woman says Arkansas deputies assaulted her in Sebastian County

In May of 2020, 19-year-old Tyler McClain moved from Tulsa, Okla., to rural Arkansas, and within days she says sheriff's deputies assaulted her.

SEBASTIAN COUNTY, Ark. — A Tulsa family says Greenwood officers and Sebastian County deputies mistreated their daughter after being involved in a crash in rural Arkansas on May 14, 2020.  

19-year-old Tyler McClain says she was driving around early that morning when she and her dog veered off the road in their car. 

"(The) Vehicle spiraled and went on to the side of the road and onto a fence," Tyler McClain said, speaking with 5NEWS. 

According to the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office statement about Tyler's arrest, deputies were called to the scene at around 2 a.m. to an accident off Highway 10 and Highway 71 south, near Greenwood.  

"I knew that this place was not for me," said Tyler, recalling the day of the incident, "But I had just moved there two weeks prior." 

Greenwood Police Department officers were also called to the scene, and EMS told deputies they believed Tyler was suffering from medical issues. 

You can hear an officer speaking with Tyler in the body camera video. "You alright right now?" said the officer. Tyler replies, "Umm, I don't know how I feel right now."  

Bodycam video shows the deputies guiding Tyler to an ambulance to get checked. The next video shows her sitting in her car. The statement says they called a tow truck to get her car out of the field, and she was supposed to gather her personal items, but she never left the car. She says she was looking for her phone. 

In the video, an officer is heard saying, "Ms. McClain, what are you doing right now? Ms. McClain."

The officer then asks her to step out of the car, and she doesn't move. Then, the officer pulls her out, throwing her on the ground with three officers are shown in the video, handcuffing her. 

In the video, you can hear the conversation between Tyler and the officer. "Why am I being arrested?" The officer responds saying, "Because you're not doing anything I'm asking you to do right now." 

Deputies say she began kicking them.  

"I wish y'all never came," shouted Tyler. An officer responded, "You got to relax." Tyler shouting, "No! You're putting my life in danger!"

Lying on the ground, Tyler said she thought to herself, "I wasn't there to get help." 

"Get off me," Tyler screams in the video. An officer responds, saying, "Stop!" Tyler shouts back, "Get off, get off!" 

She says she never made the call to 911, but she expected safety and reassurance after her car accident when they arrived. But mom Talisha McClain says Tyler didn't receive any of that. 

"Instead of helping them, you hurt them," said Talisha. "Instead of being the people to protect and serve, you hurt somebody."  

"You guys aren't helping me at all," Tyler shouted during the incident. "Listen," the officer replied. Tyler responded, "I don't need you guys here." The officer told her to calm down. 

Tyler was later picked up and taken to the back of the police car but refused to get inside. She was later taken to Baptist Health hospital in Fort Smith, Ark., but refused treatment and instead asked for her phone. 

"I have no reason to go to the hospital right now. I want to go home," Tyler said in the body cam video. 

She was then taken to the Sebastian County Jail and arrested on second-degree battery and multiple misdemeanors, later dropped by the prosecuting attorney.  

Talisha says she got the call about a day later, saying she was in shock. 

"I couldn't believe what happened. This girl just graduated from high school in 2019. Had dreams of starting her own business," she said. 

However, she says that all changed after May 14, 2020.  

Los Angeles-based attorney DeWitt Lacy is now representing the McClain's in a lawsuit. 

After reviewing the video from May 14, the Sebastian County Sheriff's office sent 5NEWS this statement showing the changes they've made since the incident. 

"Sheriff Runion was made aware of this matter soon after the incident took place. He reviewed the reports and the video available. After the review, the following steps and action plan were taken by SCSO at the direction of Sheriff Runion.

  • A review of SCSO Use of Force and Taser policy was completed, and the revised policy reflects best practices per state and federal law.
  • Involved deputies were debriefed, and the lessons learned will be shared with all enforcement deputies.
  • Classroom training on the Use of Force and Taser policy has been completed. Also, a part of this training was on de-escalation techniques. The training has been certified by the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. This training is mandatory.
  • Involved deputies were disciplined following SCSO policy.

Sheriff Runion initiated these directives after the incident even though McClain filed no complaint. "The trust of our citizens is of paramount interest to this department, and SCSO takes that trust seriously." 

But the McClain's and their attorney have a message for the Greenwood Police Department and the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office. 

"We're coming to hold you accountable," Lacy said. "And we're not going to pretend this incident didn't happen. We're not going to ignore the harm that you've cost Tyler and her family." 

The changes made to the sheriff's office policies were made after the incident. Even though deputies say, a complaint hasn't been filed by the McClain's.  

The Sebastian County Sheriff's Office also says deputies completed training on the use of force and taser policy after the incident. Part of that training included de-escalation techniques. 

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