Excessive Force or Doing Their Job?

August 8, 2007 - Posted at 10:33 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- An incident of shoplifting at the Mall at Turtle Creek has one Region 8 family crying excessive force after events spiraled out of control. But was it simply the law doing their job?  You decide...

On Tuesday evening, off duty Craighead County Sheriff Deputies C.W. Toombs and Chris Hathcoat were working security at J. C. Penny at the Mall at Turtle Creek.  They became involved in a foot pursuit after 20-year-old suspect Joseph Peel allegedly stole a $100 pair of shoes...a chase that took them across Highland Drive to a house on Timms Street.  The deputies followed Peel into the home, where an altercation broke out with 22-year-old Marshall Irvin Williams, Jr.

Williams' mother Bobby says her family wasn't sure what to think of the men who had suddenly entered their house.

"I didn't know they were officers, if they would have told us that we would have immediately backed off.  because when we got up and I said I need a gun, I said let me get and I was grabbing and I got my chair and I said alright, I'm going to beat them off and I was headed out that door and I got out there with it and there stood the real men with the real suits and I said, 'uh-oh this is the police' and I dropped the chair," said Bobby Williams, "I don't go against law enforcement you understand me and I teach my son well. I believe in law enforcement and you are supposed to abide by the law, that's rule."

Both Peel and Williams, Jr. have been in trouble with the law before.  Peel has been arrested for theft of property less than $500, criminal trespass, revocation of probation and possession/manufacturing a controlled substance (marijuana) with intent to deliver.

"I can understand they were a little upset with chasing the young man from the mall way over here, I can understand them being a little agitated.  But they didn't act professional, they didn't announce themselves," said Marshall Irvin Williams, Sr.

But under the law of fresh pursuit, they don't necessarily have to.  Police may make warrentless searches of fleeing suspects or cross jurisdictional boundaries for fleeing suspects and private citizens may use reasonable force to retake property which has just been taken from them.

"He could have broken his nose because he really elbowed him, but they were attacking him like he was a mad dog and all he was trying to do was defend us because we didn't know what was going on. Because they never identified themselves to tell us because they just had on regular clothes," said Bobby Williams.

Jonesboro Police did taser Williams, Jr. after they arrived to assist and Deputy Hathcoat was treated for a bite wound to the chest. According to the police report, Peel and Williams, Jr. were also treated for minor injuries sustained during the physical altercation.

Although the Williams family say they respect the job law enforcement does, they still plan to pursue a police brutality complaint.

"They look out for us, they save us, but those two officers last night went above and beyond," said Williams, Sr. sternly.

Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann says he isn't commenting until a complaint is filed.

Williams, Jr. faces charges of second degree battery, probation violation and interfering with a law enforcement officer.  Peel faces charges of robbery, shoplifting and fleeing.