An Arkansas cop accused last summer of viciously beating a handcuffed man—the shocking scene caught on video by a horrified bystander—wiped his department-issued phone to destroy evidence that further implicated him, an FBI search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast alleges.
Then-Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputy Levi Garrett White “performed a factory reset that erased all data” on his department-issued iPhone 11 Pro Max after he brutally assaulted a shackled Randal Ray Worcester, states the affidavit. White deleted a series of incriminating text messages roughly 90 minutes before department brass arrived to pick it up two weeks after the incident, it claims.
The feds say White, 32, was worried the bystander’s video, which showed him punching Worcester in the head and slamming his skull into the pavement, would “ruin his life and cost him his job.” On the evening of the incident, White allegedly texted a former colleague from his personal phone, “I’ll fight back with someone trying to do that stupid shit every time. I don’t care.”
The ugly scene took place on Aug. 21, 2022, outside a Mulberry, Arkansas convenience store, after which footage of the interaction quickly went viral. In it, Worcester, a resident of Goose Creek, South Carolina, can be seen on the ground in the parking lot of the Kountry Xpress market, being punched in the head again and again.
“Shit, dude,” the person filming can be heard saying off-camera. “This is bad.”
A second officer, identified by authorities as Deputy Zack King, can also be seen in the footage assaulting Worcester. He and White were fired in October. A third officer, Thell Riddle of the Mulberry Police Department, was there but did not participate in Worcester’s beating, according to the FBI. He was placed on paid leave, receiving a certificate of appreciation from the mayor at a Christmas party two months later.
Riddle subsequently told a federal grand jury that he was “appalled” by White’s actions and that they “violated ‘morals’ and ‘human decency,’” according to the affidavit, which was filed on Jan. 19.
Shortly after the video of the beating became public, Worcester’s stepfather, Eric Wedding, told The Daily Beast of White and King, “I hope they burn. Enough is enough.”
The assault on Worcester
It all began with a phone call. Several hours prior to the violent confrontation, a gas station attendant in a nearby town told police he had been threatened by a man with a knife, according to Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante. Worcester, 27, who witnesses said had appeared to be in “mental distress,” then rode away on a bicycle. King, White, and Riddle later spotted Worcester sitting on a curb outside the Kountry Xpress, where Worcester became agitated, Damante said at the time.
Dashcam video from Riddle’s cruiser showed the trio speaking to Worcester for nearly four minutes. Worcester, who is white, then “stood up quickly,” and White “attempted to grab him around the neck,” the affidavit states. But Worcester “escaped from White’s grasp… and tackled him to the ground,” it says. Riddle and King then jumped in, below the dashcam’s field of view—and prior to the bystander showing up.
Crawford sheriff dept Arkansas pic.twitter.com/KZAmwzwwmV
— Naomi Johnson (@NaomiRHelm) August 21, 2022
Although White later wrote up an official report claiming Worcester had pinned him down and punched him “multiple times” during the period he wasn’t visible to the dashcam or bystander video, Riddle later told grand jurors that he “did not see [Worcester] throw any punches at White,” according to the affidavit.
Worcester, who surrendered a folding utility knife to White before the assault, seemed somewhat discombobulated, the affidavit says.
“Are you going to make this a conspiracy,” he asked. “Are you going to tell them I killed you?”
“I’m not dead, I’m standing right here,” Riddle responded.
The bystander, who is identified only as “E.L.” in the affidavit, told the FBI that she pulled out her phone and started recording when she saw “the level or force” the cops were using against Worcester.
“She further explained that she was ‘frozen in shock’ because the police beating ‘was so violent,’” according to the affidavit.
Her 34-second video showed Riddle did not strike Worcester, it says.
That same day, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Capt. Michael Dawa told White that the Arkansas State Police would be opening an investigation into the incident. On Aug. 22, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, announced that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was launching a second investigation.
“This is not what our law enforcement community represents,” Hutchinson said at a press conference. “It’s not the proper response and they will be reviewed and appropriate action taken.”
Also on Aug. 22, the FBI asked CCSO officials to retrieve White’s work cell phone, according to the affidavit, which says King had already turned his over to investigators. However, when a CCSO commander called White, he didn’t pick up. Two employees then went to White’s house and spoke with his mother, “but they could not retrieve White’s phone, as he was not at home,” the affidavit states. On Sept. 7, Crawford County attorneys contacted White’s lawyer to schedule a pickup of his phone at 11 a.m. the next day, it says.
On Sept. 8, Dawa and another officer showed up at White’s home, where they found him waiting for them on the front porch, according to the affidavit. White went inside to get his phone, and came back out “in a matter of seconds with the cell phone in his hand,” it says. He said the battery was dead and that he didn’t have a charger.
Four days later, an FBI agent retrieved the phone from the CCSO, where Dawa and Testerman had been charging it.
“When the phone was taken off the charger, [I] noticed that the cell phone screen came on and appeared on the ‘hello’ screen,” the affidavit states. “Based on my training and experience, this ‘hello’ screen occurs when an Apple iPhone is first being set up or it has been factory reset.”
A forensic examiner was able to see that White’s phone had been reset on Sept. 8 at 9:35 a.m. CST—“an hour and a half prior to the scheduled pickup by the CCSO,” according to the affidavit.
“As a result, the FBI analyst was not able to retrieve any data from the phone, including call records, text messages, pictures, or any other information that may have been relevant to the federal investigation,” it says.
On Sept. 28, White was terminated. In a voluntary statement during his hearing, he claimed he reset the phone to remove personal information like credit card and banking information.
At the same time, the FBI obtained records for White’s personal iPhone, according to the affidavit. On Aug. 20, the day before the incident with Worcester, White hadn’t sent or received any text messages and had only made two calls. But the next day, he made or received 12 calls and 51 texts, the affidavit states. On Aug. 22, he made or received 26 calls and 48 texts, the feds say.
Among them were texts “that indicate White and other officers recognized that White used excessive force,” according to the affidavit.
In one, Riddle allegedly sent White a text describing the incident as an “ass whipping.” He also told White, prior to White filing his official report, that the camera had been largely blocked by the hood of his cruiser.
In texts and calls with a childhood friend, White said that he was worried about going to jail over the incident and losing his job. “We may have gone too far, but I had just had my head hit on the ground and was concussed,” he claimed in one, according to the affidavit. “after we got him down and secured, maybe it went too far.”
After watching the video, White allegedly admitted to the friend that the footage “does look bad,” and that “my punches look horrible,” but insisted that he had only been “lightly hitting him to get him to stop moving around,” according to the affidavit.
A third set of apparently incriminating texts came from the cell phone of a deputy in Johnson County, Arkansas, who had previously worked with White. In one screenshot that the deputy provided to the FBI, White said he had taken “the fight” to Worcester for “trying to do that stupid shit.”
This wasn’t White’s first obstruction rodeo, the affidavit says.
In 2020, the FBI claims White lied to investigators who were probing former Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boen, who had been accused of beating a shackled detainee so badly that another deputy said his bloody face “resembled a “horror movie,” according to the affidavit.
However, White, who had taken custody of the detainee after his arrest, “told the FBI that he did not recall whether [the detainee] had facial injuries like cuts, bruising, or blood when he arrived at the jail,” the affidavit states. “White also said he ‘dragged’ [the detainee] to a holding cell because [he had] ‘dead-weighted’ when he got out of Boen’s vehicle.” Yet, White had told a completely different story after speaking with Boen, claiming the detainee had banged his own head against the wall while being taken to a jail cell.
The newly-unsealed search warrant seeks a judge’s permission to search White’s personal cell phone for additional evidence.
It also asks for authorization for investigators “to press the fingers (including thumbs) of White to the Touch ID sensor of the Cellular Phone or present White’s iris or face to the device’s camera in an attempt to unlock the device via Touch ID or Facial Recognition to search the contents as authorized by this warrant.”
On Jan. 19, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Ford signed off on the request.
Worcester was later hit with six charges related to the Aug. 21 incident, including battery and resisting arrest. A lawsuit he filed against White, King, and Riddle is pending in federal court.
Last month, White and King were indicted on federal civil rights charges for use of excessive force. A lawyer for the pair previously told The Daily Beast that the violence had been a “necessity” to subdue Worcester.
If convicted, White, who was unable to be reached for comment on Monday, faces up to a decade in prison.