Justice Department opens investigation into violent arrest in Arkansas

By Thomson Reuters Aug 23, 2022 | 9:16 AM

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into the conduct of three Arkansas law enforcement officers caught in an online video over the weekend punching and kicking a suspect while he was on the ground outside a convenience store.

The department’s field office in Western Arkansas said in a statement on Monday it will work with the civil rights division and the FBI to investigate the incident on Sunday in Mulberry, a community of about 1,500 people about 130 miles (209 km) northwest of Little Rock, the state capital.

A video of the incident, taken by a bystander and shared widely on social media and by news networks, showed an officer punching a suspect in the face as he held his head to the pavement while another officer kicked the man in his legs and midsection.

A third officer was seen holding the suspect down on the ground. The video ends after one of the officers points at the bystander and orders them to stop recording.

The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office said two of its deputies, Zack King and Levi White, were involved in the incident as well as Thell Riddle, a police officer from the city of Mulberry.

King and White have been suspended while Mulberry placed Riddle on administrative leave pending an investigation, the agencies said in separate statements.

It is not immediately clear if the officers have lawyers.

A series of deadly encounters in recent years, many of them captured on cellphone video, have highlighted what critics brand as a pattern within U.S. law enforcement of using excessive force, especially with people of color.

The suspect who was seen being beaten in Arkansas appeared to be white, as were all three officers involved in the incident.

The suspect, Randall Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, was taken to a hospital for examination and treatment. He was later released from the hospital and jailed, the Arkansas State Police said in announcing it had opened a use-of-force investigation. He faces several charges, including second-degree battery.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Alistair Bell)