FORT SMITH – Two former Crawford County sheriff’s deputies were arrested Tuesday and charged with federal civil rights violations for using excessive force in connection with an arrest that was reported and went viral in August.
Levi White, 32, and Zachary King, 27, were charged Tuesday in US District Court for the Western District of Arkansas with one count of deprivation of rights under the pretext of law. The indictment, filed Jan. 11, accuses both men of repeatedly hitting 27-year-old Randal Wooster of Goose Creek, South Carolina while Wooster was on the ground at the time of his August 21 arrest, resulting in bodily injury.
White and King face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted of the related charges, as well as up to three years of parole and a fine of up to $250,000, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District. Arkansas.
White and King pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on Tuesday, according to court records. A jury trial was scheduled for 9 a.m. April 3 in front of U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes at the federal courthouse in Fort Smith.
Connor Hagan, a public affairs officer for the FBI’s Little Rock office, said bureau agents and deputies of the US Marshals Service took White and King into custody Tuesday morning in connection with an investigation that the FBI, US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department launched into with the arrest of Worcester.
On Tuesday, White and King were released on $5,000 bonds with conditions, according to court records. One condition: No male may travel outside the Western District of Arkansas without permission from the US Probation Service. White and King are represented in the case by attorney Russell Wood of Wood law firm in Russellville.
On Tuesday, Wood said the allegations in the indictment were not true, and he and his clients are looking forward to presenting their views at the jury trial.
King and White, as sheriff’s deputies, along with Officer Tell Riddle of the Mulberry Police Department, were videotaped using force during Wooster’s arrest around 10:40 am on August 21 outside the Kountry Xpress convenience store in Mulberry. The video shows officers repeatedly punching and kneeling Worcester and telling a bystander to get out of the scene.
An officer identified as White in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Wooster on August 29 was also shown head-butting Wooster on the pavement.
Worcester was arrested on charges of second-degree battery, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, resisting arrest, possession of a crime weapon, criminal trespass, second-degree criminal mischief, and first-degree terrorist threat following the incident. sheriff’s office prisoner list online. He was released from jail on $15,000 bail on August 22.
White and King were fired on Sept. 29 with a recommendation to revoke their certification due to “excessive use of force,” according to reports from the Arkansas Division of Law Enforcement Standards and Training. They were suspended from work after Wooster’s arrest.
Riddle was still on administrative leave as of December 20, according to Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory. Hagan said Tuesday that Riddle was not arrested by either the FBI or the Marshals Service.
In addition to the federal investigation, attorney Emily White said she was appointed as a special prosecutor to independently investigate the Arkansas State Police’s use of force in Wooster’s arrest. She received investigation files from the State Police on September 2.
In Wooster’s lawsuit, White, King and Riddle, as well as Chief Mulberry Gregory, then-Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante, Mulberry, the Crawford County Police Department, and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office are accused of violating Wooster’s rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and, respectively, federal law. He also accuses them of negligence, battery and assault on Worcester.
White countersued Worcester’s lawsuit on October 6, accusing Wooster of battery and seeking a court order for damages he said Worcester inflicted on him on August 21. A jury trial in the lawsuit is scheduled for September 11th.
Damante said on August 25 that Wooster reportedly threatened a Sargent gas station employee off Interstate 40 in Alma with a knife on August 21. Wooster then spat on the woman and rode away on a bicycle, Damante said.
According to Damante, White, King and Riddle ran into Worcester at Mulberry soon after. Worcester, who still had the knife, is reported to have given the officers a false name. Wooster then “aggressively grappled” with one of the officers who tried to arrest him, hitting the officer’s head on the concrete and causing a concussion, as well as punching him in the head, Damante said.
The video of the incident, which went viral on social media, did not include any of this, Damante said, although some of it was recorded with a car camera.
Wood named White as a Worcester MP who was reportedly attacked in a press release dated 22 August.
Damante also said Worcester is a convicted felon who has been charged or convicted of several incidents over the past 10 years, including assaulting a police officer.
According to records provided by the county court clerk, Wooster pleaded guilty to felony assault and battery on a police officer in August 2021 in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. He was given a 3-year suspended sentence on the first charge and 60 days on the second charge, including time served, court records say.
According to the records, Worcester was also sentenced to 120 days in prison in December 2020 on charges of domestic violence – assault and battery, and 30 days in prison in October 2021 on charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
OTHER LEGAL ACTIONS
Attorneys Adam Rose and David L. Powell of Fort Smith filed three federal civil rights lawsuits over reports of force being used against the Crawford County Sheriff’s office, the sheriff, the county, and the King following Worcester’s arrest. This includes Wooster’s lawsuit, as well as other lawsuits they filed on behalf of Sarah Trammell, 44, of Uniontown on October 14 and Polly Reisenhoever, 67, of Dyer, on January 12.
Rose said Tuesday that the arrests of White and King are “a big step in the right direction for accountability and justice for all Crawford County victims.”
“We will continue to fight for fairness and accountability in pending federal lawsuits for many of our clients and for the community at large,” Rose said.
According to court records, Wooster’s interests in his lawsuit are now represented by Oklahoma City attorney Rachel Bassett.
Levi White Zachary King