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3 law enforcement officers in Arkansas are suspended following viral video of beating

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Authorities in Arkansas are sharing more details after bystander video captured three law enforcement officers beating a suspect on Sunday. Michael Hibblen, with Little Rock Station KUAR, has been following the case and joins us now.

Hi, Michael.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about today's developments. What's happened?

HIBBLEN: Well, there are multiple investigations now underway looking into the officers' use of force while arresting a man named Randall Worcester in the west Arkansas city of Mulberry. This afternoon, Governor Asa Hutchinson held a press conference and said one probe is being led by Arkansas State Police, which is standard after this sort of incident. Also, though, the U.S. attorney's office working with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is leading a separate investigation into what happened. The two Crawford County sheriff's deputies and a Mulberry police officer were seen punching and kneeing the suspect. Hutchinson called the contact - conduct of the officers reprehensible. Here's what the governor had to say about the incident.

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ASA HUTCHINSON: It is under investigation. We don't have all of the details. And certainly, that suspect had a history of concern that was legitimate for the officers, but that - what that response was, was not consistent with the training that they receive as certified officers with the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.

HIBBLEN: Hutchinson did not elaborate on what the concerns for law enforcement were, but the city's police chief said that Worcester had been making threats and struggled with officers before being arrested.

SHAPIRO: So this bystander video was posted on social media Sunday, and it spread far and wide really quickly. Tell us what it showed.

HIBBLEN: Well, this was a short but very dramatic video in which officers were seen outside a convenience store holding Worcester down to the ground. One was repeatedly punching the man in the face with a closed fist, the other repeatedly kneeing the body. The bystander who recorded this was in a vehicle, and she was gasping at what she was seeing and at one point yelled at officers who told her to keep back.

SHAPIRO: Is there body camera footage of the incident?

HIBBLEN: Well, we don't know for certain that body camera footage exists. The governor and head of Arkansas State Police were asked by reporters today whether body camera footage possibly worn by the officers would be released. The 34-second clip we've seen so far only shows police hitting and kneeing the suspect. Additional footage would likely help provide some context about what led to the officers taking this level of force. Colonel Bill Bryant, director of Arkansas State Police, said any decision on whether to release that footage would have to be made by prosecutors after his department's investigation is complete.

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BILL BRYANT: It's going to take some time. We - they're out there working right now to gather the facts and the evidence. And once we get the facts and evidence, they prepare a case file and a summary, and then we'll turn it over to the prosecutor, who then will decide what the appropriate charges are.

HIBBLEN: And today, the Crawford County Sheriff's Office released the name of the two deputies. They have been suspended. The Mulberry officer is also on administrative leave.

SHAPIRO: That is Michael Hibblen of Little Rock station KUAR. Thank you very much.

HIBBLEN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Hibblen
As News Director, Michael Hibblen oversees daily news coverage for KUAR. He handles assignments for the news staff, helps develop story ideas and edits copy. Michael is responsible for starting a news-sharing partnership between public radio stations in Arkansas in 2009 which laid the foundation for what became Arkansas Public Media. He is also a regular panelist and fill-in host on AETN's Arkansas Week, where journalists discuss issues in the news.
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