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Two Arkansas deputies videotaped in violent arrest are fired

The Crawford County Sheriff's Office did not give a reason for the terminations, and the state police said a special prosecutor is reviewing the case.

Two Arkansas deputies who were caught on video violently arresting a man outside a convenience store in August have been fired, the Crawford County Sheriff's Office said.

Deputies Zack King and Levi White were fired one to two weeks ago, Linda Phillips, administrative assistant for the sheriff's office, said Friday.

She did not know the exact date of their termination and said she could not disclose the reason they were fired. King joined the department in 2019 and White in January after stints at the sheriff's offices in Johnson and Franklin counties.

Sheriff Jimmy Damante did not return requests for comment. He told television station KHBS on Thursday that his decision was for the betterment of the sheriff's department and the community. He did not elaborate.

Russell Wood, an attorney for King and White, has not commented publicly about the firings. A representative from his law firm said Friday that a statement would be posted later to its Facebook page.

Former Crawford County Sheriff's Deputy Levi White.
Former Crawford County Sheriff's Deputy Levi White.Johnson County Sheriff's Office, Arkansas via Facebook

A bystander recorded a 34-second video of King, White and Mulberry Police Officer Thell Riddle arresting Randal Worcester, 27, outside a convenience store in Mulberry, about 137 miles northwest of Little Rock.

One of them repeatedly punches Worcester's head and smashes it into the pavement while another knees him over and over as the third holds him down.

The three men were suspended with pay after the video was posted on social media and sparked widespread outrage. The Aug. 21 incident drew condemnation from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and prompted state and federal investigations

Neither King, White nor Riddle was wearing body cameras. Video from the Mulberry police vehicle's dashcam has not been released.

The Arkansas State Police has said the officers were responding to a disturbance call when they came upon Worcester. Damante has said Worcester was being questioned for threatening a female employee at a convenience store with a knife and spitting on her in the nearby small town of Alma.

Damante said Worcester tackled one of the deputies and punched him in the head before the arrest, and the deputy suffered a concussion.

Worcester was treated at a hospital and then jailed. He was charged with second-degree battery, resisting arrest, terroristic threatening, second-degree assault, criminal mischief, possessing an instrument of crime, refusal to submit and criminal trespass. He was released on a $15,000 bond.

A state police spokesperson said Friday that the initial investigative file was sent last month to a specially appointed prosecutor for review to determine whether use-of-force laws were violated by the law enforcement officers.

Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory said Riddle is still on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the prosecutor's investigation. Riddle has been with the department since March 2017. 

Worcester filed a federal lawsuit against King, White, Riddle, the police chief and the sheriff, alleging they violated his constitutional rights. The lawsuit says Worcester sustained permanent injuries from the arrest that will require "continual medical treatment."

David Powell, an attorney for Worcester, described the firings as "a start."

"I think it's more the department trying to protect itself than actually punishing these officers," Powell said Friday. "The only thing that would bring real justice is for them to be charged criminally."

Teddy Wallace with injuries he said he sustained when he was arrested in August in Crawford County, Arkansas.
Teddy Wallace with injuries he said he sustained when he was arrested in August in Crawford County, Arkansas.Courtesy Attorney David Powell

Powell is also representing a handful of people who have come forward since Worcester's arrest to allege abuse at the hands of sheriff's deputies during separate arrests.

Powell said two of the individuals who have alleged that White used excessive force against them — Teddy Wallace and Tammy Nelson — are scheduled to be interviewed by the FBI next week.

Powell said he has reached out to the special prosecutor and believes it will be at least another month before a decision is made on whether the three men will face charges.

"For the community, there needs to be accountability going forward," Powell said. "There needs to be dash and body cams so we know there will be a structural change within the department. I think that's how real change happens in the county."