SCOTT COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — A Scott County Sheriff and a former Waldron police sergeant have been charged after an Arkansas State Police investigation of an arrest in February that was caught on multiple body cameras.
According to arrest documents filed on Friday, Sept. 30, an Arkansas State Police investigator says former Waldron Sgt. Omar Gonzalez used excessive force against a suspect after a chase.
The chase had begun at around 11 p.m. on February 16, 2022, with Mansfield and Huntington police departments pursuing a white van. As the chase continued through Waldron, Waldron officers along with the Scott County Sheriff and deputies joined, the affidavit says.
The suspect, identified as Robert Deer, lost control and came to a stop at the intersection of US Highway 71 and Echo Road. Deer reportedly had complied with Huntington and Mansfield officers who had asked him to get out of his van and lay on the ground.
This is when, the Arkansas State Police investigator says, Officer Gonzalez approached Deer "from his blind side," and kicked him in the back of the head. Gonzalez then put his knee in Deer's back and continued to hit him "several times in the head with his fist."
The report goes on to say once Deer was handcuffed, Gonzalez "picked him up off the ground and slung him into the front" of Deer's van, "headfirst."
Deer's eye was injured, causing his right eye to swell shut, the affidavit says.
Shores' affidavit says bodycam footage shows that he witnessed Gonzalez "strike Robert Deer in the head several times and sling him while handcuffed into the front of Mr. Deer's van."
Gonzalez is charged with three counts of battery in the third degree and Sheriff Randy Shores is charged with two counts of being an accomplice to battery in the third degree.
Scott County Jail records showed both were booked and released on Friday.
The sheriff's department said they are disappointed in the decision to charge Sheriff Shores. The statement says, "Sheriff Shores has stated that he did not witness the actions that led to the third-degree battery charge, and therefore was never in a position to intervene."
Waldron Police Chief Jeremy Hunt said he was made aware of the incident by the Mansfield Police Department (MPD) the day after the chase on February 17, 2022. Hunt said MPD came to him, saying there "were some concerns regarding use of force." Once Hunt viewed the bodycam footage, he said he reached out to city and district attorneys who then requested Arkansas State Police agents begin an investigation.
Hunt also says in the statement that Gonzalez was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. On May 2, Gonzalez resigned and paperwork was sent in to decertify him.
"Since February, the Waldron Police Department has procured body cameras and Tasers. We have instituted a mandatory camera policy and will also be retraining each officer in Response to Resistance Techniques, along with requiring refresher training each year on Use of Force," Hunt said in the statement.
Special Prosecutor Emily White said the incident on February 16, 2022, involved multiple agencies. "Mr. Deer sustained physical injury as a result of his interaction with law enforcement on this date," White said.
"Both Gonzalez and Shores remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Beyond the parameters of this statement, the charging documents and the videos, I will refrain from further comment as this case progresses through the court system."
Body cam footage from Huntington and Mansfield police has been released.
On Monday, Oct. 3, Shores did an interview with 5NEWS to declare his innocence.
"I did nothing wrong…I'll have my day in court on it," said Shores.
According to documents, Shores witnessed the actions of Gonzalez but he says otherwise.
"I walked up on the scene probably right in the middle of some stuff that already happened and I walked into pepper spray," said Shores. "Probably the next two or three minutes I was just trying to get my eyesight back, I never really saw anything."
Shores describes Gonzalez's actions as "excessive." It wasn't until a few days later that Shores says he finally watched the bodycam footage and saw what actually happened. That's when the Scott County Sheriff's Office turned over a copy of that video to the prosecuting attorney's office.
"I didn't think a whole lot about it until they showed up and charged me. I hadn't done anything to be charged with," Shores said.
Shores says he didn't think he would be charged with a crime since he didn't do anything or witness what was happening. Shores is facing two counts of being an accomplice to battery in the third degree. Since the charge is a misdemeanor, it doesn't affect his job as a sheriff.
"I'm sorry Scott County got put in a bad light and I think the outcome will be good when we got to court because I am innocent, I didn't do anything wrong," Shores said.
Warning: videos contain graphic depictions of violence and explicit language. View with caution.
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Arrest warrant affidavits can be found below.
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