Three Arkansas law enforcement officers were suspended, and state police launched an investigation after a video posted on social media showed two of them beating a suspect while a third officer held him on the ground.
The officers were responding to a report of a man making threats outside a convenience store Sunday in the small town of Mulberry, about 140 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, near the border with Oklahoma, authorities said.
The video shows one officer punching the suspect with a clenched fist, while another can be seen hitting the man with his knee. The third officer holds him against the pavement.
In video recorded from a car nearby, someone yells at officers to stop hitting the man in the head. Two of the officers appear to look up and say something back to the person who yelled. The officers' comments could not be heard clearly on the video.
Two Crawford County sheriff’s deputies and one Mulberry police officer were suspended, city and county authorities said.
Arkansas State Police said the agency would investigate the use of force. State police identified the suspect as Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, South Carolina.
He was taken to a hospital for treatment then released and booked into the Van Buren County jail on multiple charges, including second-degree battery, resisting arrest and making terroristic threats, state police said.
Worcester’s father declined to comment when contacted Monday by The Associated Press. He referred a reporter to a law firm representing the family. That firm said it was still trying to gather information and did not immediately have a comment on the video.
Worcester is white, according to jail booking information, and the three officers involved also appear to be white.
Authorities have not released the names of the three officers.
“I hold all my employees accountable for their actions and will take appropriate measures in this matter,” Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante said.
In a statement released Sunday evening, Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory said the community and the department take the matter "very seriously.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Twitter that the incident "will be investigated pursuant to the video evidence and the request of the prosecuting attorney.”
Cellphone video of often-violent police interactions has put a spotlight on officer conduct in recent years, particularly since the 2020 killing of George Floyd while he was being arrested by police in Minneapolis.
The resulting nationwide protests called attention to officer brutality that often targets Black Americans.
The front door at building that serves as the Mulberry police headquarters and city hall was locked Monday. A sign on the door directed anyone with questions about “the police investigation” to contact Arkansas State Police.
It was unclear whether the officers were wearing body cameras.
Amid public pressure for transparency and the proliferation of videos exposing police misconduct, there has been some pushback against recording officers. In July, the governor of Arizona signed a bill that makes it illegal to knowingly record officers from 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer without permission.
Mulberry is a town of 1,600 people on the southern edge of the Ozarks in western Arkansas, right off Interstate 40, which runs from California to North Carolina.