A police officer who appeared to choke a skateboarder and put two others in a headlock in a video posted online used appropriate force when making his arrests, an internal police investigation found.
The Hot Springs Police Department Internal Affairs Board found the use of force was within the police department’s policy on non-deadly force and recommended “no changes to this policy.” The decision was released Monday.
Officer Joey Williams confronted a situation that “would have overwhelmed any single officer” when he stopped those breaking a Hot Springs city ordinance by skateboarding on a downtown sidewalk June 21, the report said.
However, Williams was faulted for leaving a handcuffed suspect unattended while chasing another youth in the resort town’s historic Bathhouse Row.
Williams has been on administrative leave since the video hit YouTube on June 25. Police said he would return to active duty Thursday in the city’s downtown.
“I think it was fair,” City Manager Kent Myers said. Witnesses “consistently supported the actions of the officer and his efforts to control the situation.”
Video from a business’ security cameras shows 10 skateboarders rolling down the city sidewalk at a good clip, followed by Williams, who sprints past the last skater.
A video taken by skateboarders and later posted on YouTube shows Williams on top of one of the skaters, apparently choking him. The video also showed Williams putting another two skateboarders in a headlock, and the officer can later be heard threatening to use pepper spray on a skateboarder lying on the ground.
Police said they arrested Matthew Jon McCormack, 21, and Skylar Nalls, 19, both of Hot Springs, and four juveniles. McCormack faces a misdemeanor battery charge accusing him of pushing or striking a 67-year-old city employee during the melee. Nalls was cited for skateboarding and faces misdemeanor charges of fleeing and obstructing governmental operations.
McCormack has previously disputed many of the police allegations, especially his battery charge. He has said he pulled on the city employee’s arm after the man lifted a girl off her feet in a choke-hold.
Hot Springs is a resort town about 50 miles west of Little Rock.