Aug. 23 (UPI) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said federal prosecutors have opened their own use-of-force investigation into three law enforcement officers who were captured in video by a bystander seemingly beating a suspect they were attempting to apprehend over the weekend.
Hutchinson announced the investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department in a press conference Monday, after video circulated widely online showing two police officers repeatedly punch and knee the suspect in the head and back as he was being held down by a third officer in a parking lot of a Mulberry connivence store on Sunday morning.
The officers were identified Monday as Deputies Zack King and Levi White of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and Mulberry police officer Thell Riddle.
All three were placed on administrative leave with pay after the video went viral. Their separate departments as well as Arkansas State Police have said they are investigating the incident.
The Republican governor said Monday during the press conference that what he saw in the video was “reprehensible conduct.”
“We don’t have all the details and certainly that suspect had a history of concern that was legitimate for the officers, but what that response was was not consistent with the training that they received as certified officers with the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy,” he said.
“This is not what our law enforcement community represents, it is not the proper response and they will be reviewed and appropriate action taken” based on the results of the state investigation, he said.
The U.S. attorney’s office for Western Arkansas confirmed the launch of the federal investigation in a statement to NBC News.
“The FBI and the Arkansas State Police will collect all available evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner,” Charlie Robbins, spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys’ office of Western Arkansas, said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
The suspect was identified as Randall Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, S.C. Following the incident, he was transported to an area hospital for treatment. He was then released back into police custody and charged with a slew of offenses including second-degree battery and assault charges, resisting arrest, refusal to submit and terrorist threatening, among others.
He was released on bond Monday.
Crawford County Sheriff Jim Damante told reporters in a separate press conference on Monday that the officers were not wearing body cameras at the time of the incident but a dash camera in the Mulberry Police Department cruiser was running and “does bring to light other things that happened there … that wasn’t caught on the citizen’s camera.”
Damante acknowledged that “everything” about this case bothers him and the actions of the three officers are “not indicative of the Crawford county sheriff’s department or any other law enforcement agency in this area.”
The suspect, he said, was not known to police as he came from out of state.
He said the altercation occurred after officers asked Worcester if he had any weapons on his person, to which he replied yes.
“I believe he at one point handed it over to the officer,” he said, without specifying the weapon, adding that it appears that is when Worcester became violent.
“They admitted they had to use force to subdue him,” he said.
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