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Probes launched into violent Arkansas arrest captured on video

Two Crawford County sheriff's deputies and a Mulberry police officer have been suspended.

State police and federal officials launched investigations into the use of force against a man by Arkansas law enforcement officers that was captured on viral video, officials said Monday.

The video was recorded Sunday outside a convenience store in Mulberry as three officers, two from the Crawford County Sheriff's Department and one from the Mulberry Police Department, arrested a man on allegations of trespassing and other crimes, Arkansas State Police said in a statement.

The suspect, identified as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, was hospitalized with unspecified injuries before he was jailed, state police said.

The deputies and the officer involved were identified as Crawford County Sheriff's Deputies Zack King and Levi White and Mulberry Police Officer Thell Riddle, the sheriff's office revealed Monday.

At a news conference Monday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the officers' conduct was "reprehensible."

“First of all, that is reprehensible conduct in which a suspect is beat in that fashion," he said. "We don’t have all of the details, and certainly that suspect had a history of concern that was legitimate for the officers, but that response was not consistent with the training that they receive as certified officers with the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.”

Hutchinson said that, in addition to a probe by Arkansas State Police, the U.S. Justice Department is also investigating.

Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante said in a statement Sunday that the two deputies who were seen on video had been suspended until the conclusion of the state probe. Mulberry police subsequently said in a statement that their officer has also been suspended pending the investigation, NBC affiliate KARK of Little Rock reported.

"The City of Mulberry and the Mulberry Police Department takes these investigations very seriously and holds all their officers accountable for their actions," the department said.

All three officers are on paid administrative leave, Col. Bill Bryant, the head of the state police, said at a news conference Monday.

Representatives for statewide law enforcement organizations that represent rank-and-file officers and deputies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. It's not clear whether the deputies and the officer involved have legal representation.

Damante, the sheriff, said he requested the state police investigation.

It's not clear what took place before the recording, which appeared to have been shot from a vehicle at the Kountry Xpress market.

Video shows Worcester on the ground, his body twisting in different directions, as an officer closest to his head pummels him with a right fist and then a left. At one point, the same official pulls the suspect's head off the ground and pushes it down with force.

Another law enforcement official, the one closest to the man's feet, appears to strike Worcester multiple times with a knee. The third officer appears to hold Worcester down, with the help of body weight, at his waist.

Toward the end of the video, a woman in the car shouts at the officers to stop, and one of the three responds by pointing toward the camera. Another shouts for her to back up, using an expletive.

According to KARK, the Crawford County deputies came upon Worcester after a clerk at a retailer reported to another police department that a person spat on him and threatened him. That department asked neighboring jurisdictions to be on the lookout for the suspect, the station reported.

The sheriff's department said that the suspect was cooperative at first but that the men ultimately ended up in a physical confrontation.

Damante said at a news conference Monday that the suspect, who wasn’t known to police, as he was from another state, became violent when officers were about to take him into custody. He said his officers’ account of the incident matched what the viral video showed. 

Damante said his officers "admitted that they had to use force to subdue him.” 

He said there is dashcam video of the interaction from the Mulberry officer's vehicle, which was handed to state police.

"The dashcam does bring to light other things that happened there, that initiated, that wasn’t caught on the citizen’s camera," Damante said about the video.

The sheriff's deputies didn’t have body cameras. Damante said he is trying to get body and dash cameras for the department.

“This behavior is not indicative of the Crawford County Sheriff's Office or any law enforcement agency in this area,” Damante said.

"I promise that I hold my employees accountable for their actions and I will take appropriate action, whatever that action is, when the investigations are complete."

Damante said all involved have years of experience. One of his deputies worked for the department for three to four years and the other for five to six years. He said the Mulberry police officer also worked on the force for several years.

Damante said he didn’t know whether they had been subject to previous disciplinary action. He estimated that the last time his deputies had training in use of excessive force was when they were in the academy. 

He said that the FBI is expected to speak with state police Monday and that an internal investigation within the sheriff's office is underway.

The state investigators are focusing solely on the use of force at the store, and they will forward their conclusion, including possible recommended charges, to local prosecutors.

A detailed list of charges for which the suspect was booked, according to state police, includes: second-degree battery, resisting arrest, refusal to submit, possessing an instrument of crime, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, terroristic threatening and second-degree assault.

CORRECTION (Aug. 22, 2022, 11:51 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of the man whose arrest in Arkansas was captured on viral video. He is Randal Worcester, not Randall.