Police Abuse

Arkansas Cops Suspended After Video of Beating Goes Viral

The video shows three officers kicking, punching, and slamming the man's head into the pavement. State police are now investigating.

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Three Arkansas police officers have been suspended pending an investigation by state police after a video taken by a bystander showed them brutally beating a shoeless man outside of a convenience store.

The video, first posted Sunday afternoon on Twitter, shows two Crawford County sheriff's deputies and an officer with the Mulberry Police Department holding down and battering a man later identified by state police as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina. The officers knee, punch, and slam Worcester's head into the ground.

Arkansas news outlet KSFM-TV reports that, according to Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante, officers were dispatched on Sunday after receiving a call about a man threatening and allegedly spitting on a convenience store employee: 

Sheriff Damante says Worcester then traveled on a bike to Mulberry, near Exit 20, where the Mulberry officer and the deputies met with him. The conversation began calm and Worcester handed them a pocket knife, but the sheriff says Worcester then began attacking one of the deputies by pushing him to the ground and punching the back of his head, leading to what was seen in the video. 

Worcester has been charged with second-degree battery, resisting arrest, refusal to submit, possessing an instrument of crime, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, terroristic threatening, and second-degree assault.

There is no bright-line test for when legal use of force by police crosses over into excessive force. Rather, excessive force claims are evaluated under the Fourth Amendment's "objective reasonableness" standard, which judges incidents based on individual factors and from the perspective of a reasonable police officer on the scene. However, slamming a person's head into the pavement is not a standard technique to gain compliance.

"Certainly the blows to the head at the same time you're trying to get a person to put their hands behind their back—think about it," former Philadelphia police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told CNN. "It doesn't make sense. If you're getting hit in the face, you're going to lift your hands to try to protect your face."

"In reference to the video circulating on social media involving two Crawford County Deputies, we have requested that Arkansas State Police conduct the investigation and the Deputies have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation," Damante said in a Facebook statement. "I hold all my employees accountable for their actions and will take appropriate measures in this matter."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has confirmed that the Arkansas State Police are investigating the incident, and in a statement to The New York Times, the agency said its investigation "will be limited to the use of physical force by the deputies and the police officer."

The incident is just the latest video of apparently excessive force to go viral and lead to police being investigated. In April, bodycam footage of Tulsa police violently arresting an elderly woman with bipolar disorder drew widespread outrage. Last month, a video went viral of a 2016 incident where a Colorado police officer chased and tased a man for holding a "fuck bad cops" sign.