CRAWFORD COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — Attorneys for Randal Worcester have filed a federal lawsuit after a now-viral video from Aug. 21 shows two Crawford County deputies and a Mulberry police officer on top of him, in some instances kneeing and slamming his head on the ground, during his arrest.
On Monday, Aug. 30, Attorneys David Powell and Adam Rose with The Law Offices of David L. Powell filed the suit against the three officers— Deputy Levi White, Cpl. Zack King and Officer Thell Riddle— as well as Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante, Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory and their respective departments.
“The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and Mulberry have had a history of violence and a history of this behavior that’s going to be coming out and I think the public is going to see and it’s important that they as a whole, as an entity, as a department are held responsible for that behavior,” said Adam Rose.
In the complaint, Worcester's attorneys argue that during the violent arrest, both his Fourth Amendment rights (unreasonable searches and seizures by the government) and Fourteenth Amendment rights (the right for everyone to be protected under the law) were violated.
The attorneys also claim the defendants owe damages to Worcester for "negligence, assault, excessive force, and battery."
The complaint states that Worcester was traveling to South Carolina on his bicycle on Sunday, Aug. 21, when a gas station employee called police alleging that he had threatened her.
According to the statement from that employee, she claimed Worcester spit on her and told her he'd cut her face off when she told him he couldn't loiter outside the gas station in Alma.
Crawford County Deputy White and Cpl. King along with Mulberry Police Officer Riddle initiated a traffic stop at a gas station in Mulberry.
According to the lawsuit, the events that led up to the video began when the officers asked Worcester about the incident with the gas station employee.
"Mr. Worcester was compliant as he explained to Defendant Officers that due to a lack of water, he had asked the gas station attendant for water." Worcester told the officers that the employee "became angry with him and asked him to leave the store," the document says.
Worcester reportedly told the officers about a "small pocketknife in his pocket but immediately gave it over to officers, and the officers knew at this time the Defendant was not armed."
The lawsuit goes on to claim that without warning, Deputy White "aggressively attempted to put Mr. Worcester's arms behind his back in an effort to handcuff him, without stating any reason for doing so." Worcester said he wasn't read his Miranda Rights when he was handcuffed.
"A physical altercation ensued," and from there, the rest of the incident is what was caught on a bystander's cell phone and posted online. "Despite Mr. Worcester being detained, the Defendant Officers continued to repeatedly punch, kick, and knee [him.]" Worcester's head was also slammed onto the pavement during his arrest.
"At no point during the incident did any of the Defendant Officers attempt to use de-escalation tactics or subdue Mr. Worcester with a taser and/or pepper spray." Worcester's attorneys allege the three officers "acted with malice and/or reckless disregard" for Worcester's Constitutional rights.
“We’ll never really know the answer to that being the officers were not wearing body cams. But it does shed light on him not being read his rights, him not being articulated as to why he was being stopped and also makes sense as to why our client’s response was confusion,” said Adam Rose.
Statements given by Deputies White and Cpl. King's lawyer Russell Wood in the days following the arrest said the deputies didn't have tasers.
Wood also described Worcester as a "violent suspect" who "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," Worcester then, according to Wood, "got on top of Deputy White and began striking him in the back of the head and face."
"Deputy White re-engaged and used all force necessary to get the violent suspect under control and detained," Wood said in a statement the day after the arrest.
The suit goes on to say Officer Thell was "inadequately" supervised by Mulberry Police Chief Gregory who was "deliberately indifferent."
Crawford County Sheriff Damante is accused in the lawsuit of failing to respond after previous excessive force complaints were brought to him about White and King. Damante said the day following the violent arrest that he would take "appropriate action" against the deputies if they are found guilty of a crime.
One of the complaints of excessive force came from Teddy Wallace, who said he was tased four times during a violent arrest in mid-July by Crawford County deputies, including Deputy White, but was never charged with a crime.
Tammy Nelson also came forward on Tuesday, Aug. 23, saying she personally complained to Sheriff Damante about Levi White using excessive force against her in early August. Damante, according to Nelson, told her that she resisted and refused to accept her complaint.
"He dragged me so fast that even if I wanted to, there was no time to resist," Nelson said.
Worcester's attorneys go on to request a jury trial surrounding the claims— from the officers violating his Constitutional rights to accusing them of battery and assault— and requested unspecific "compensatory and punitive damages."
5NEWS reached out to Wood for a statement on the lawsuit against his clients. "I have no knowledge about a federal lawsuit. However, I will vigorously defend the lawsuit like I do every lawsuit against my law enforcement clients,” Wood said.
Damante responded to the lawsuit saying, "I take every allegation seriously and I hold employees accountable if they violate policies or the law. I asked the State Police to do an independent investigation of this matter and I trust they will provide context and clarity to the entire incident, not just the short clip that went viral.
Filing a lawsuit while there's still an independent investigation underway is premature. None the less, our attorneys will defend the Crawford County taxpayers from whom this lawsuit seeks payment."
In addition...Crawford County Prosecutor Rinda Baker responded to why she has requested a special prosecutor for the case....saying in part:
"I requested that a special prosecutor has been appointed to review the use of force allegations. I have also requested a special prosecutor to review and determine whether charges will be filed against Mr. Worcester. I requested a special prosecutor in each matter due to conflicts and to avoid any appearance of impropriety or ethical conflict."
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