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Arkansas

Arkansas officers accused of brutal arrest caught on video

 

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Two former Arkansas law enforcement officers are charged with civil rights violations in connection with the violent arrest of a man outside a store that was filmed and widely shared on social media, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday. .

Former Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies Zach King and Levi White are accused of using excessive force by hitting Randal Wooster multiple times as he lay on the ground during his Aug. 21 arrest. A passer-by used a mobile phone to record an arrest in the small town of Mulberry, about 140 miles (220 km) northwest of Little Rock, near the Oklahoma border.

The two former MPs pleaded not guilty during an initial court appearance on Tuesday afternoon after the indictment against them was uncovered. Lawyer for former MPs Russell Woods said his clients denied the allegations.

If found guilty, each deputy faces up to 10 years in prison.

No charges were filed against Mulberry Police Officer Tell Riddle, who was also in the video. Former Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante fired King and White in October.

The current sheriff, Daniel Perry, declined to comment on the allegations.

Damante said Wooster, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, was being interrogated for threatening a clerk at a nearby convenience store and for assaulting one of the deputies. According to Damante, the deputy received a concussion.

The three officers were suspended after the video became public and state and federal authorities launched an investigation. The state criminal investigation remains open and active, said Emily White, the state’s special prosecutor tasked with the case.

Wooster filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and local officials, alleging they violated his constitutional rights at the time of his arrest. Rachel Bassett, Worcester’s attorney, said she was glad the two were arrested.

“Now they’ll just have to go through the lawsuit,” Bassett said.

White and King, who were taken into custody by US marshals and the FBI, were released on bail on Tuesday. The judge set the men’s trial date for April 3.

Police experts said the video was troubling about the officers’ actions, saying hits to the head constituted a potentially lethal use of force that is only justified when someone poses a real and serious threat.

Wooster was treated in a hospital and later jailed on charges including second-degree battery and resisting arrest. He was released the next day on $15,000 bail. Wooster’s lawsuit says he has permanent injuries and will need further treatment.

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