The Justice Department said Tuesday that two former Arkansas law enforcement officials are facing civil rights charges in connection with the violent arrest of a man outside a convenience store that was filmed and widely shared on social media.
Former Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies Zach King and Levi White are charged with the Aug. 21 arrest of 27-year-old Randal Wooster outside a store in the small town of Mulberry, about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock, near the Oklahoma border. .
In an indictment released Tuesday, a federal grand jury accused White and King of using excessive force by hitting Wooster several times while he was on the ground. An eyewitness recorded the detention on a mobile phone.
Lawyer for former MPs Russell Woods said his clients denied the allegations in the indictment.
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, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, was being questioned 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.
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.