By Mary Kay Mallonee, CNN
A federal grand jury indicted two former Arkansas law enforcement officers on an excessive force charge after they were caught on video punching a man repeatedly during an arrest in August, prosecutors said.
Levi White and Zackary King, former deputies with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, were indicted on federal civil rights offenses for using excessive force while arresting a 27-year-old man on August 21 last year, the US Department of Justice said Tuesday in a news release.
The man was previously identified by state police as Randal Worcester of Goose Creek, South Carolina.
A bystander recorded the violent interaction on video, which showed at least two officers punching and kneeling on Worcester outside a business. At one point in the 34-second video, one of the officers lifts Worcester’s head and slams it into the pavement.
“Specifically, count one of the indictment alleges that, while the arrestee was lying on the ground, White struck him multiple times,” the Justice Department said. “Count two of the indictment alleges that King struck the arrestee multiple times, also while the arrestee was lying on the ground.”
White and King entered not guilty pleas in federal court Tuesday in the Western District of Arkansas. Their attorney, Russell Wood, told CNN in a statement, “My clients are not guilty. The allegations in the Indictment are not true and we will prove this at trial.”
The case comes as police use of force is under scrutiny nationwide, including in Ohio, where two police officers are under investigation after a video on social media showed an officer punching a Black woman in the face several times. And in Memphis, Tennessee, five officers were fired after Tyre Nichols died following confrontations with police during an arrest, police said. Preliminary results of an independent autopsy commissioned by his family found Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
In addition to White and King, an officer with the Mulberry Police Department, identified by the sheriff’s office as Thell Riddle, was also present during Worcester’s arrest.
All three were removed from their duties after the video of the arrest was posted on social media, officials said at the time.
The video showed the officers restraining Worcester near a curb. One officer throws punches at him in the face and slams his head to the ground, while another knees him in the side and back.
Worcester was being arrested for allegedly threatening a gas station clerk in a neighboring town, Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante told CNN affiliate KHBS at the time.
When he was spotted in Mulberry, Worcester was initially cooperative, but then tried to attack the officers, leading to the confrontation in the video, Damante told KHBS.
None of the officers was wearing a body camera, but the Mulberry officer had a dashboard camera on his squad car, which provided details on how the scuffle began, the sheriff noted at the time without elaborating.
A trial by jury is set for White and King April 3.
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CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin, Andy Rose and Hannah Sarisohn contributed to this report.