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Two Arkansas deputies in viral arrest beating video arrested on federal charges

2022-08-22-Randal_Worcester-2.jpeg
Andrew DeMillo
/
AP
Randal Worcester walks out of the Crawford County Justice Center in Van Buren, Ark., Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. Three Arkansas law enforcement officers were suspended after a video of Worcester's arrest showed two of them beating the suspect while a third officer held him on the ground outside a convenience store.

The two West Arkansas sheriff’s deputies captured in a viral video beating a suspect during an arrest last year were taken into custody on Tuesday after a federal investigation.

A grand jury charged former Crawford County sheriff’s deputies Levi White and Zack King with felony civil rights violations in the Aug. 21 arrest of Randal Worcester in Mulberry, according to an indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

The citizen-recorded video showed White, King and Mulberry police officer Thell Riddle holding Worcester down and striking him with knees and fists and bouncing his head against the parking lot concrete.

King and White were fired. Riddle was placed on administrative leave after the incident, and he wasn’t included in the federal indictment.

Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante at first defended King and White in the days following Worcester’s arrest.

The arrest came after police had been looking for Worcester, who was accused of threatening to attack a convenience store clerk with a knife.

When officers spotted the man and began talking to him, he gave a false name, also a crime, Damante said in August.

When the deputies and the police officer tried to arrest Worcester, “he aggressively tackled one of the deputies, slamming that deputy’s head into the concrete and causing a serious concussion. The criminal then punched the deputy in the head,” Damante said.

Worcester was treated at a local hospital before being detained at the Crawford county jail and was released the next day after posting a $15,000 bond, according to online jail records.

Amid a social media firestorm, local authorities a day after the arrest announced concurrent state and federal investigations.

Worcester was eventually charged with state felony charges of terroristic threatening and battery.

The federal indictment states that King and White willfully deprived Worcester of his 4th Amendment rights when using unreasonable force to arrest him. The indictment says the officers violated 18 U.S.C. § 242 Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.

King and White were arraigned in federal court in Fort Smith on Tuesday, and both pleaded not guilty, according to court records.

Worcester, who is from South Carolina, sued White, King and Riddle in federal court following his arrest. King and White have also been accused in public statements and lawsuits by other residents of using excessive force.

Both deputies were released from custody on bond, and a jury trial was scheduled for April 3 in Fort Smith. Criminal trials are often delayed for months and in some cases years as prosecutors and defense lawyers deal with various legal issues.

Deputy Editor of Arkansas Advocate, which is part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization, supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Advocate retains full editorial independence.