Two West Arkansas sheriff’s deputies caught in a viral video of a suspect being beaten during an arrest last year were taken into custody Tuesday following a federal investigation.
According to the indictment released Tuesday, a grand jury charged former Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies Levi White and Zach King with gross violations of civil rights in the Aug. 21 arrest of Randal Wooster in Mulberry.
Video recorded by a citizen shows White, King and Mulberry Tell Riddle police officer holding Wooster and kneeling and punching him as his head hits the concrete of the parking lot.
The king and the whites were dismissed. After the incident, Riddle was placed on administrative leave and did not appear on the federal indictment.
Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante initially defended King and White in the days following Wooster’s arrest.
The arrest came after police were looking for Wooster, who was accused of threatening to attack a convenience store clerk with a knife.
When officers spotted the man and started talking to him, he gave himself a false name, which is also a crime, Damante said in August.
When deputies and a police officer attempted to arrest Wooster, “he aggressively attacked one of the aides, hitting his head on the concrete and causing a severe concussion. Then the perpetrator hit the deputy on the head with his fist,” Damante said.
According to online prison records, Wooster was treated at a local hospital before being imprisoned in the Crawford County Jail and was released the next day after posting $15,000 bail.
Amid a social media storm, local authorities announced parallel state and federal investigations the day after the arrest.
Wooster was ultimately charged with felony terrorist threats and battery.
The federal indictment alleges that King and White deliberately stripped Wooster of his 4th Amendment rights by using unreasonable force to arrest him. The indictment alleges that the officers violated 18 USC § 242, “Deprivation of rights under cover of law.”
King and White appeared in federal court in Fort Smith Tuesday, and both pleaded not guilty, according to court records.
Wooster of South Carolina sued White, King and Riddle in federal court following his arrest. King and White were also accused in public statements and lawsuits by other residents of using excessive force.
Both deputies were released from custody on bail, and a jury trial was scheduled for April 3 at Fort Smith. Criminal trials often drag on for months, and in some cases years, as prosecutors and defense attorneys deal with various legal issues.