A man portrayed in a recent video being beaten by Arkansas law enforcement officers has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The man, identified as Randal Ray Worcester in jail records and as Randal Worcester II in the federal complaint, alleges five separate counts: (1) a violation of the Fourth Amendment, (2) a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, (3) a violation of federal civil rights law 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (4) the tort of negligence, and (5) the torts of assault and battery. Worcester is listed as an Oklahoma resident.
The named defendants are Mulberry, Arkansas police officer Thell Riddle, police chief Shannon Gregory, the Mulberry Police Department, and the City of Mulberry.
Also named as defendants are Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies Zachary King and Levi White, county sheriff Jimmy Damante, the sheriff’s department, and Crawford County.
Not all of the counts are alleged against each named defendant.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages along with pre-judgment interest in an amount that the paperwork estimates “shall exceed that required for federal jurisdiction” to be proven later at trial. Federal jurisdiction generally involves claims of more than $75,000.
The complaint alleges that Worcester was riding home to “South Caroline” — the genesis of the place name is unclear; it doesn’t seem to appear on any area maps — on his bicycle.
The lawsuit then lays out the ensuing conversations:
Near the early morning hours of Sunday, August 21, 2022, Defendant Riddle was dispatched to the Kounty Xpress gas station located at 1107 Georgia Ridge Drive, Mulberry, Arkansas in response to a call alleging that Mr. Worcester had threatened a gas station attendant. Defendant Riddle called for back up from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and Defendants King and White responded to the scene.
As Mr. Worcester was riding his bike down the road, Defendant Officers turned in after Mr. Worcester, followed him for a short distance, and then proceeded to initiate a traffic stop.
Mr. Worcester got off his bike as the Defendant Officers approached. Defendants introduced themselves, asked Mr. Worcester where he was going, and inquired about the alleged threats made at the Kountry Xpress gas station.
Mr. Worcester was compliant as he explained to Defendant Officers that due to a lack of water, he had asked the gas station attendant for water. Plaintiff explained that the attendant became angry with him and asked him to leave the store. Plaintiff also stated he had a small pocketknife in his pocket but immediately gave it over to the officers, and the officers knew at this time the Defendant was not armed.
From there, the confrontation became physical, the lawsuit alleges:
Without provocation, Defendant White aggressively attempted to put Mr. Worcester’s arms behind his back in an effort to handcuff him, without stating any reason for doing so. At no time did the Defendant Officers inform Mr. Worcester of his Miranda rights when being handcuffed.
A physical altercation ensued, resulting in the Defendant Officers tackling Mr. Worcester to the ground, wherein the Defendant Officers used violent, excessive force against Mr. Worcester. Once on the ground, the Defendant Officers restrained Mr. Worcester by pinning his hands and arms behind his back.
Despite Mr. Worcester being detained, the Defendant Officers continued to repeatedly punch, kick, and knee Mr. Worcester in the face, head, back, stomach and legs. At one point, Defendant White picked up Mr. Worcester by the head and slammed his face and head into the concrete pavement. Mr. Worcester attempted to protect himself during the Defendant officers’ physical assault, but to no avail as the Defendant officers had him pinned to the ground.
An onlooker expressed concern for Mr. Worcester, shouting at the officers to stop beating on him; in response, Defendants responded to her to “back the [fuck] up.”
At no point during the incident did any of the Defendant Officers attempt to use de-escalation tactics or subdue Mr. Worcester with a taser and/or pepper spray.
The lawsuit alleges that such force “was in excess of any force required to take Mr. Worcester in custody and maintain him in custody” and “was grossly out of proportion to any need for the use of force by Defendant Officers, was not employed in good faith, and caused severe injuries to Mr. Worcester.” Those wounds and maladies are listed as “an injury to his face, body, and head for which he will need continual medical treatment.”
More specifically, the lawsuit further alleges that the Mulberry Police Department “failed to respond to previous complaints” of a similar nature, specifically those allegedly lodged against Riddle. The upshot, according to the complaint, was “inadequate supervision.”
Similar accusations were lodged against the sheriff’s office regarding the two defendant deputies in that department’s employ.
“Defendant Damante, the Crawford County Sherriff’s [sic] Office and the County of Crawford, Arkansas were aware, or should have been aware, of the propensity of both the Defendants White and King to commit acts of battery, assault, and negligence against individuals,” the document asserts.
“Any reasonable law enforcement officer should have known that his conduct violated clearly established federal law and was a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit asserts.
Law&Crime previously reported on the available bystander video of the incident.
The recording shows one of the assembled officers repeatedly raising his fist and punching what appears to be Worcester’s head as the latter was being held to the ground. The restrained man appeared to be on his side for at least part of the confrontation. Another officer, positioned closer to the man’s feet, appears to repeatedly knee Worcester — possibly in the leg. A third officer, presumably from the police department because his uniform is a different color, appears to help hold the individual to the ground.
Crawford sheriff dept Arkansas pic.twitter.com/KZAmwzwwmV
— Naomi Johnson (@NaomiRHelm) August 21, 2022
The local police officer was placed on leave after the incident; the sheriff’s were suspended. The sheriff posted on Facebook that he would “hold all my employees accountable for their actions and will take appropriate measures in this matter.”
The Arkansas State Police identified Worcester, 27, as a Goose Creek, South Carolina resident. It is the agency investigating the officers’ use of force as a police matter.
Crawford County jail records reviewed by Law&Crime say the 5’11”, 145-pound Worcester was initially charged with eight separate counts: second-degree battery, first-degree assault, refusing to submit to arrest/resisting arrest, possessing an instrument of crime, criminal trespass, second-degree criminal mischief, making a terroristic threat in the first degree, and second-degree assault.
Local television stations KHBS and KHOG, which operate a joint newsroom, reported that the authorities claimed Worcester “turned violent and tried to attack the officers” before the highly publicized video of the melee was recorded.
The person who recorded the video, however, told the television stations that Worcester merely “tried to get up to run from the officers,” according to a report.
The federal lawsuit is embedded below:
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