Nothing settles a round of “He Said, She Said” faster than cold, hard videotape. Case in point: a video currently posted on YouTube.com, showing a Hot Springs cop getting medieval on a group of dastardly teen-age skateboarders.
In a still photograph at the beginning of the video, shot June 21, Hot Springs bicycle patrol officer Joe Williams is seen putting a chokehold on a 13-year-old boy who is lying on his back on the sidewalk. In the video that follows — with the Arlington Hotel in the background — Williams gets increasingly loud and rough with a group of the boy’s skateboarding friends, accusing them of fleeing, threatening them with arrest and pepper spraying, and chasing one of them across several lanes of traffic. At one point, Williams puts two of them — a boy and a girl — in a double-armed chokehold.
Skateboarding in downtown Hot Springs, by the way, is a violation of a city ordinance. Skateboarders nationwide took to the streets June 21 to demonstrate against pervasive anti-skateboarding ordinances.
Local skateboarder Matt McCormack shot some of the video, and was one of six arrested. McCormack said that when Officer Williams put a chokehold on his female friend, he grabbed Williams’ arm to try to make him stop. A brief struggle ensued — very one-sided if the video is any judge — and Williams’ knuckle was bloodied.
“I’m not trying to say bad shit about them, but they lied horribly in the report, saying I was slinging my fists and my elbows,” he said. “I tried to pull his arm off her neck because of the way he was lifting her off the ground.”
Because he is over 18, McCormack has been charged with felony battery. The other five who were arrested that day — another adult and four juveniles — were charged with fleeing or violation of the city ordinance against skateboarding. McCormack said that he is currently seeking an attorney to represent him, and has posted uncut footage from that day to counter charges that the original video was edited to make Williams and other officers look bad.
“[The police] are talking about more serious charges since they found this on YouTube,” he said. “They’re saying they want to prosecute this to the fullest now. They’re really angry about it. They’re not talking about dropping anything, that’s for sure.”
A spokesman for the Hot Springs Police Department said that an investigation into the incident is ongoing, and that he couldn’t comment further at this time.
The Arkansas Press Association announced winners last weekend in its annual journalism competition. The Arkansas Times, though a weekly, competes against the state dailies. We picked up seven awards, including two first place wins — for coverage of education and for a freelance piece on a UAMS cancer patient by Renan Antunes De Oliveira.
We had two seconds — in the single event issue category for our issue on downtown development and Jim Harris’ sports feature story on unhappy Razorback fans. Dale Ingram won a third-place in freelance writing for a historical piece on hunger. We also had honorable mentions for coverage of politics and Mike Gauldin’s editorial cartoons.
Now the bad news. We cannot tell a lie — the misspellings of “Arkansas” and “Pulaski” in last week’s Insider item on winners of an adult spelling bee were not sly tests of readers’ spelling. They were just embarrassing examples of poor typing and proof-reading. Wrote one reader to spelling bee judge Doug Smith: “Deer Dug I red the Insidrs scory aot The Akansays aadult spllling bea i the Tmes. Inersetin storey. Fer Sur. Seem is was at teh Pulaaski hightts Chrisin Church. I don gess the Insidr wille be enterin the bea hissef next yer. I woant enthr.”