Three Arkansas law enforcement officers have been removed from duty and are facing state and federal investigations, officials confirmed Monday, after bystander video captured at least two of them punching and kneeing a suspect during an arrest.
At one point in the 34-second video recorded Sunday, one of the officers also lifts the suspect’s head and slams it into the pavement.
A Crawford County Sheriff’s Department Facebook post identifies the law enforcement personnel involved as sheriff’s deputies Zack King and Levi White and officer Thell Riddle of the Mulberry Police Department. CNN has reached out to the deputies and officer.
The deputies are not rookies and have been in law enforcement “for some time,” while the Mulberry officer has been in policing for “many years” and previously worked for the sheriff’s department, Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante told reporters Monday. They are suspended with pay, he said.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas confirmed it had opened a federal civil rights investigation. The FBI Little Rock field office and the US Justice Department’s civil rights division are also investigating, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office.
Analysts: Use of force seems excessive
The video, which was posted on social media, shows the officers restraining an individual – identified by state police as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina – near a curb outside a business. One officer throws punches at the person’s face and slams his head to the ground, while another knees the individual in the side and back.
A woman who is not seen on the video says, “Don’t beat him! He needs his medicine!” One officer responds, “Back the f**k up!” while another orders her to get in her car.
“We do not know what would happen if that person would not have been videoing,” said Carrie Jernigan, one of Worcester’s attorneys. “The fight was escalating with those officers and you hear that woman on that video yelling, and whoever that is, I think she could’ve saved his life.”
Damante declined to get into many specifics, emphasizing the case remains under investigation, but said the actions he saw on the video are “not indicative of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department or any law enforcement agency in this area.”
The deputies “will be punished for what they did, if they’re found to be in violation of any rights,” the sheriff said.
None of the officers was wearing a body camera, but the Mulberry officer had a dashboard camera on his squad car, which provided details on how the scuffle began, the sheriff said without elaborating.