Two deputies with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office in Mulberry, Arkansas, and one officer of the Mulberry Police Department are under investigation this week, after footage shared widely on social media showed the law enforcement officials beating a man while he appeared to lay prone on the concrete outside a convenience store.
Speaking with the Arkansas Times, Naomi Johnson, the woman who first shared the video of the incident, said the clip had been sent to her by her sister who witnessed the assault firsthand and was too shaken by what she saw to to discuss it publicly yet. But, Johnson said, her sister had sent her the footage explaining that she’d seen the three officers talking with the man outside a Kountry Xpress, and that the man appeared to be in some form of mental distress. According to Arkansas State Police, the man is Randall Worcester, who is currently being held on a suite of charges including resisting arrest, assault, and battery. Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante claimed to local news outlet KHBS that Worcester had threatened a clerk at a nearby store before biking to the Kountry Xpress, where he was confronted by the three officers.
While the circumstances leading up to to the violent assault on Worcester are unclear from the brief video clip, it clearly shows the three officers punching, kicking, kneeing, and slamming Worcester’s head into the concrete as he lays face down on the ground. At one point, one of the officers warns the onlookers to “back the fuck up.” (The clip, which is graphic and may be difficult to watch, can be viewed here.)
In a brief statement posted to Facebook, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office said that “we have requested that Arkansas State Police conduct the investigation and the deputies have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.” It also said that the office holds all “employees accountable for their actions and will take appropriate measures in this matter.”
Arkansas State Police spokesperson Bill Sadler issued a separate statement to the Arkansas Times confirmed that “Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division are investigating the incident depicted in the video.” On Twitter, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) added that the investigation was also prompted by “request of the prosecuting attorney.”
The footage has drawn obvious comparisons the 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of three former members of the Minneapolis Police Department, all of whom have been found guilty for their various roles in Floyd’s death. While it remains to be seen whether the three Arkansas officers in this instance will face criminal prosecution for their actions, what seems clear is that absent footage of their violence, they’d likely never have even been suspended or investigated to begin with.