Two former sheriff’s deputies in Arkansas have been charged with federal civil rights offenses, accused of using excessive force during the arrest of a man outside a gas station last year, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.
A federal grand jury indicted the former Crawford County sheriff’s deputies, Levi White and Zackary King, in connection with the Aug. 21 arrest in Mulberry, Ark., about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock. The officers are accused of repeatedly punching Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, S.C., while he was lying on the ground.
If convicted of the criminal charges, Mr. White and Mr. King face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. They also face up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, the Justice Department said.
A 34-second video of the arrest, recorded by a bystander, was shared widely on social media at the time and prompted state and federal investigations. The clip showed one of the officers smashing Mr. Worcester’s head into the pavement while another held the man down and a third officer repeatedly drove his knee into the man’s body.
At the time of the arrest, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said Mr. Worcester faced charges including second-degree battery, resisting arrest, terroristic threatening and second-degree assault.
The third officer involved in the arrest worked for the Mulberry Police Department. Chief Shannon Gregory said on Thursday that the officer, Thell Riddle, has been on administrative leave, pending the outcome of a state investigation.
The three officers were suspended after the arrest, and Mr. White and Mr. King were fired in October, according to Linda Phillips, the administrative assistant for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office. She said that Mr. White and Mr. King were arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday, but she declined to provide any other details.
Daniel Perry, the Crawford County sheriff, said in an email on Thursday that the department was training its officers on proper use-of-force techniques, and that it had purchased dashboard and body cameras to “hopefully be more proactive in making our officers accountable for their actions.”
A lawyer for Mr. White and Mr. King did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Mr. Worcester, Rachel Bussett, said her client and his family were gratified by the news of the charges.
The A.P. reported that the two former sheriff’s deputies pleaded not guilty in a court appearance on Tuesday. According to the Justice Department, police officers may use deadly force only when there is a “reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”
Christine Hauser contributed reporting.