The Crawford County sheriff today released a statement saying a viral video that shows three officers pummeling a man into the cement fails to show the man earlier attacking and seriously injuring one of the deputies.
Sheriff Jimmy Damante promised an investigation by his own office in addition to independent investigations by the Arkansas State Police, the Justice Department and the FBI but said the public should “withhold judgment until all facts are identified and verified.”
The arrest of Randall Worcester, a 27-year-old South Carolina man, in Mulberry on Sunday has drawn national attention since a cellphone video taken by an onlooker hit social media. Even Republican Governor Hutchinson has called the officers’ actions “reprehensible.”
Damante said that, unlike the onlooker’s video, a patrol car’s dash-cam video shows some of the earlier altercation. When police tried to arrest Worcester after he earlier allegedly threatened a store employee, “he aggressively tackled one of the deputies, slamming that deputy’s head into the concrete, causing a serious concussion,” Damante said. It wasn’t until “moments later” that the onlooker began taking the cellphone video, the sheriff said.
“None of the citizen video covers the previous violence by the criminal, but the dash-cam video covers some of it,” Damante said.
The sheriff did not include any portion of that dash-cam recording in his videotaped statement.
Damante said police were arresting Worcester because he had threatened a grocery employee with a knife. “He said he was going to cut her face. Then he spit on the woman. … He quickly left the scene using a bike.”
When police caught up with the suspect, he still had a knife and gave police a false name, Damante said. Worcester has been charged or convicted in six assault-related incidents, including “multiple assaults on police officers,” the sheriff said.
“I understand that many people who have seen the video have concerns about the” force used, he said.
In addition to placing both deputies on administrative leave, the sheriff said he will “fully cooperate” with state and federal investigators. The Mulberry officer also is on administrative leave.
Damante said Worcester suffered only scrapes and bruises and did not want to go to the hospital, but the sheriff insisted that the suspect be taken to the hospital. “The doctor did not diagnose him with a concussion,” the sheriff said. Worcester was instead released and taken to jail where Damante said he had someone check on Worcester every 15 minutes “to ensure he was in good medical condition.”
Damante said employees in the sheriff’s office have been subjected “to online harassment and threatens.”
“Viral videos create a lot of heat but little light,” he said. “Social media chatter is full of self-proclaimed experts on use of force — all based on the smallest snippet of what happened after the man threatened to cut someone with a knife and then violently assaulted a deputy while resisting arrest.”
Damante urged the public to “let the outside investigators do their work.”
Worcester was jailed on assault charges and later released on bail.
You can listen to the sheriff’s statement at the video link here.