CRAWFORD COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — The Department of Justice, FBI, Arkansas State Police, and the Crawford County Sheriff's Office are all hosting separate investigations after a video showed two Crawford County Deputies and a Mulberry Police Officer violently arresting 27-year-old Randal Worcester.
Below is a timeline of events that followed the arrest on Sunday, Aug. 21.
Monday, Aug. 22
During a news conference, Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante said the video only tells part of the story and that the Mulberry police dash cam video tells the other half.
"The dash cam does bring to light other things that did happen there that initiated," Damante said.
He also added that Worcester was in Alma prior to the video of the arrest. Police say he threatened to cut off a gas station employee's face before riding a bike to Mulberry, where Damante says he body-slammed a sheriff's deputy and punched him.
“I am obviously glad for my client, that someone did pull out their camera phone [and was] able to capture this. Otherwise, we may not ever know what happened to him," said David Powell, one of Worcester’s attorneys, saying he’s horrified by the video.
Later that day, officer Thell Riddle and deputies Zack King and Levi White's names were released.
"The officers, none of them are rookies," Damante said.
Governor Asa Hutchinson called their actions "reprehensible." He said they don't match state-required law enforcement training. "Officers have to be able to follow that training and put it into practice,” said Hutchinson in a press conference.
Tuesday, Aug. 23
More excessive force claims of deputy White were brought up in the days after the arrest.
"He threw his arm around me" and allegedly dropped her to the ground and kneed her in the side, Tammy Nelson explained. Nelson claimed deputy White used excessive force on her a week prior to his encounter with Worcester.
Teddy Wallace also accused deputy White of excessive force in July. Saying he was tased and beaten in the head with a baton. His lawyers said that even though he was arrested, charges were never filed against Wallace.
“There’s something going on and we just need to get it addressed,” Carrie Jernigan, an attorney for Worcester as well as Nelson and Wallace, said during the press conference.
Thursday, Aug. 25
“I understand that many people who have seen the video have concerns," Damante said in a video statement ahead of a protest scheduled for Saturday, Aug 27.
He called the video troubling, however, he mentions Worcester's "violent criminal" history.
Policing experts, however, say that blows to the head amount to the potentially deadly use of force and are only justified in an arrest when a suspect poses a current and serious threat.
They say a full investigation is needed, but that the video raises obvious “red flags” about the actions of the officers, who had Worcester pinned to the ground by the time the bystander began recording from a nearby car.
Friday, Aug. 26
The deputies’ attorney, Randall Wood released a statement in a Facebook post saying they weren’t equipped with tasers to subdue Worcester.
Wood said in a statement that the deputy's “pain compliance strikes” didn't do any “damage” and that Worcester's own violence authorized the officers to use “all necessary force.”
Wood, along with Worcester's attorneys, called on the Mulberry police to release dashcam video, which he said shows more of what happened, and contended that in such a situation the suspect “must be taken off the streets at all costs.”
Saturday, Aug. 27
"We're about to be in a storm in the next few weeks in Crawford County," said rally organizer Derek Van Voast.
Around 50 protesters gathered outside the Crawford County Courthouse in Van Buren. "I cannot believe I have to be here,” said attendee Pepper Skeen. “And I'm almost 67 still doing this. Attendees asked for accountability and transparency.
"I want to know why we don't have more body cameras, I mean, I want to know if you can't— I'll buy them," said Van Voast.
Pending the investigation, Arkansas State Police say three things could happen:
- The public could get a look at the Mulberry Police dashcam video
- The officer and deputies could face criminal charges
- Governor Hutchinson says more training for law enforcement could happen
Thursday, Sept. 8
An Arkansas State Police spokesperson told 5NEWS they sent the investigative file of the officer's arrest was submitted on September 2 to special prosecutor Emily White. White confirmed that she received the case file.
Worcester's attorneys told 5NEWS their client had not been formally charged and as they wait for an outcome, they're feeling optimistic.
"I think the outcome will be that the officers using excessive force that wasn't proportionate to the force that was being used by our client and that they will find that the officers did in fact use excessive force," said Randal Worcester's Attorney Adam Rose.
Thursday, Oct. 6
The Crawford County Sheriff's Office confirmed to 5NEWS White and King had been fired.
5NEWS reached out to the attorney representing both White and King. He said he has no comment.
"I would not be surprised if charges are pressed on these officers, at this point that would not be surprising," said Rose.
Rose says his team is waiting on the two deputies who were fired to respond to their federal lawsuit, which was due October 5.
"You know I feel as though that it's a step in the right direction but it's definitely by no means the end," said Rose. "But I think I do think it's one step towards justice in this case."
5NEWS also reached out to the Mulberry Police Department and confirmed that Officer Thell Riddle is still employed and on administrative leave.
As for the dashcam video from the Mulberry Police car, which Sheriff Damant says tells what led up to the viral video, that still has not been released.
Tuesday, Jan. 24
Crawford County deputies who were seen on video hitting a man outside a Mulberry gas station in August 2022 have been arrested by the FBI.
According to the FBI spokesperson, US Marshals took Levi White and Zachary King into custody Tuesday morning and went to their first appearance at the federal courthouse in Fort Smith.
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