Fort Smith Police Announce Internal Use of Force Investigation


FORT SMITH – The Police Department said on Tuesday it was conducting an internal investigation into two of its officers following the arrest of two minors on Monday.

Officer Garett Ford and Detective Andre Arnoldi arrested two young men after mall security reported one of them threatened to kill him and others with a gun.

Ford and Arnoldi are seen in body camera footage of the arrest grappling with, then forcibly restraining the two in the mall parking lot.

The investigation will determine whether the police used racial bias in the arrests, said Police Lt. Don Cobb. Both minors are black and one accused Ford of arresting him purely because of his race, according to the arrest report. Ford and Arnoldi are both white.

At around 6 p.m. Monday, one of the youths threatened in front of several mall workers to come back to the mall with a gun and kill people when asked to leave after causing trouble, police said. . He fled when Ford approached him in the parking lot.

The video shows Ford approaching the youngster, sitting on a sidewalk outside the mall, and asking him identification questions before the boy starts running into the parking lot. Once Ford reaches him, the youngster repeatedly asks what he did as Ford tries to handcuff him.

The other youth arrested on Monday is seen in a crowd of nearby youths, who the security guard said were causing trouble at the mall before the call.

Ford says in his incident report that he was arresting the youth in connection with a terrorist threat crime for his previous statements. Ford did not tell the youth why he was detaining him before putting him in handcuffs. The youngster is later heard denying these accusations when the security officer repeats them to Ford.

“You have to tell someone what he’s charged with, but the timing is at the officer’s discretion,” Cobb said when asked on Wednesday.

When the youngster resists arrest, Arnoldi nails him to the ground. The youngster screams that he cannot breathe and tells the police to let go. Ford repeatedly tells young people to calm down.

Ford says in the report that he did not put pressure on the youngster’s neck.

Once he is handcuffed, the other youngster is seen in the video reaching out to Ford.

“I’ve told you four times to get away from me,” Ford tells the youngster as he grabs the boy by the arm and tries to handcuff him. The youngster then moves his elbow back, at which point Ford’s body camera moves quickly and then has a piece of paper in front of the lens.

A mall security guard is seen removing the piece of paper from the front of the lens before putting it back. The camera is then placed back on the front of Ford’s uniform.

“Ford’s body camera was thrown on the ground during the arrest of the second minor,” said a press release from the police department.

As the camera is dislodged, the second youngster can be heard asking Ford if he’s arrested because of his race. Cobb said the use of force investigation would “extend to” this charge.

A woman who claimed to be the aunt of the young man accused of threatening the security of the mall posted on Facebook on Tuesday, asking why the police had not checked her IDs or called her father. She accused the police of treating him “like an animal”.

The Facebook post includes a 38-second video of Ford and Arnoldi grappling with the youngster and then dragging him to the ground and a 14-second video of the youngster shouting “I can’t breathe” as officers pin him to the ground.

The woman who posted the videos could not be reached on social media on Wednesday.

A 15-second video clip of the arrest posted on social media “lacked considerable context,” the statement said, prompting the police department to release a 14-minute clip of Ford’s body camera to the media.

Cobb said on Wednesday that the police department would release what it is able to follow state’s child protection laws after the investigation is completed.

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