An Arrest Got Brutal. One Witness Started Recording

Justice Department launches civil rights investigation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2022 10:05 AM CDT
Updated Aug 22, 2022 7:20 PM CDT

Update: This file has been updated with the announcement of a federal investigation.
Three law enforcement officers in Arkansas have been suspended and are at the center of federal and state investigations following accusations they severely beat a suspect outside a Crawford County eatery, an incident recorded by a witness that has since gone viral. CNN reports that an arrest took place Sunday morning outside Kountry Xpress in Mulberry, where Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante says the suspect, identified by the Arkansas State Police as 27-year-old Randall Worcester, was spotted by a deputy after allegedly threatening a clerk at a nearby gas station. Damante tells KHBS that at first Worcester was cooperative when approached by two Crawford County deputies and an officer from the Mulberry Police Department, but that his cooperation soon changed to resistance.

Damante says the suspect tried to attack the officers, which is when they pinned him down. That's when a woman nearby started recording, showing the officers punching, kicking, and appearing to slam Worcester's head against the ground. "This is bad," a woman is heard saying in the video. A few seconds later, as the beating continues, voices are heard yelling at the officers, causing them to look up; they don't seem pleased they're being recorded. The witness sent the video to her sister, Naomi Johnson, who then posted it online, where it quickly went viral. Johnson tells the Arkansas Times that her sister told her the man being beaten appeared to be in mental distress, and that it was her sister and a friend who are shouting at the officers to stop. The Times notes the audio is hard to make out, but that it sounds like the officers yelled at the witnesses to "back the f--- up" and get back in their car.

On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it's launching a civil rights investigation of the case. It will involve the FBI's Little Rock office as well as the Civil Rights Division, per the AP. "The FBI and the Arkansas State Police will collect all available evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner," the agency said in a statement. "The federal investigation is separate and independent from the ongoing state investigation." Gov. Asa Hutchinson had written in a tweet Sunday night that the ASP would lead an investigation. Those results will be turned over to Crawford County's prosecuting attorney, "who will determine whether the use of force by the law enforcement officers was consistent with Arkansas laws," per the release.

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In its release, the Arkansas State Police say Worcester was treated at an area hospital, released, and then jailed, per the Times. He's been charged with second-degree battery and assault, resisting arrest, refusal to submit, and possessing an instrument of crime, among other charges. He's being held on $15,000 bond, per Crawford County jail records. Damante says one of the deputies suffered minor head injuries during the incident. (More police brutality stories.)

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