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Arkansas officers are suspended after social media video shows a police beating

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Three law enforcement officers in Arkansas have been suspended over what appeared to be the beating of a suspect that was caught on video. Michael Hibblen with Little Rock station KUAR is following details of the investigation and joins us this morning.

Thanks for being here, Michael.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN, BYLINE: You bet.

MARTIN: Can you describe, as grim as it may be, what is shown in this video?

HIBBLEN: Well, this happened yesterday in the city of Mulberry. That's in western Arkansas, about 30 miles from the Oklahoma border. The city's police chief said they had reports that a suspect was making threats at a convenience store. A Mulberry police officer and two Crawford County sheriff's deputies responded, with this incident taking place outside the store. The video, which quickly spread on social media, shows the three officers. One is holding the suspect down while the other two are repeatedly hitting the man in the head and kneeing him in the body. Authorities are not doubting the authenticity of the video and immediately suspended the officers and promised an investigation.

The video was apparently recorded by a woman in a nearby car, and you can hear her expressing shock, using profanity, gasping in surprise as the beating continued. At one point, she said, this is bad. We've got to get out of here. We then hear a voice yell at the officers who look up and yell something about staying back. That's when this 34-second clip ends.

MARTIN: So as you noted, there was a furious response on social media to this video. What are state officials saying at this point?

HIBBLEN: Well, Governor Asa Hutchinson weighed in immediately, posting on Twitter that he had spoken with the head of the Arkansas State Police, which typically conducts investigations of police shootings by outside departments. Hutchinson said the incident will be investigated and will incorporate what he called the video evidence. State police said in a press release that a use-of-force investigation has been opened. This case file will eventually be submitted to prosecutors who will determine whether any laws were broken. The sheriff of the county, Crawford County, as well as the local police chief - both issued statements saying that employees will be held accountable for their actions, and appropriate measures will eventually be taken.

MARTIN: And finally, what do we know, if anything, about the suspect?

HIBBLEN: He's identified as 27-year-old Randall Worcester of Goose Creek, S.C. Authorities say he was taken to a hospital for examination and treatment, though we don't know any specifics about any injuries. He was released from the hospital, then taken to a jail. And Worcester has been charged with several crimes - second-degree murder, resisting arrest, terroristic threatening, among other things, and at this point, no timeline for how long it will take for an investigation to be completed.

MARTIN: Michael Hibblen reporting from Little Rock.

Thank you, Michael.

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

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Michael Hibblen