Dashcam: Arkansas State Police officials dispute online posts claiming trooper used racial slur
Wording in question is at the 1:20 and 2:27 mark
Arkansas State Police officials on Thursday disputed posts on a blog and social media accusing a trooper of yelling a racial slur at a suspect after a pursuit in Miller and Hempstead counties last month.
Although the actions of the troopers involved, which included using profanity and making threats toward the driver, Jerry Beard, 36, of Nashville, were still under review, a forensic analysis of the video determined that no slur was used, state police officials said in a statement.
Col. Mike Hagar, director of the state police and secretary of the state Department of Public Safety, ordered the additional review Sunday after posts spread online in which people said they heard one of the troopers call Beard the slur.
Authorities on Thursday identified Trooper Tyler Gentry as the one who yelled at Beard, but they said the derogatory word was not used.
On Saturday, a video of the pursuit appeared on the YouTube channel Natural State Transparency, which features footage from police incidents, many of which are pursuits. That video, which has no additional commentary, did not assert that any of the troopers used a racial slur, although the channel owner responded "yep" to a comment asking if anyone else had heard a slur used.
Then, a Facebook post Sunday by Little Rock blogger Russ Racop claimed that one of the troopers yelled the slur and other profanity at Beard.
Racop identified the trooper -- wrongly, according to state police officials -- as Jacob Haynie.
The post includes a 52-second video that features a portion of the vehicle camera footage and Haynie's photograph superimposed over robed Ku Klux Klan members and the words #KlanWatch.
Captions superimposed on the video in the post assert that the trooper yelled, "Climb! Climb! Climb, you f****** n*****! I'll f*** you up!"
No state police personnel reported hearing any use of a racial slur during the routine review of the pursuit on U.S. 67, which ended after Gentry, the lead trooper in the pursuit, rammed Beard's vehicle and pinned it between his vehicle and other troopers,' officials said.
The ramming technique is one form of what state police call a "tactical vehicle intervention," although the procedure is sometimes called the precision immobilization technique, colloquially known as a PIT maneuver.
Haynie was in a supporting role, and can be seen near the rear of Beard's vehicle as Gentry bashed the window with a baton and tried to pull Beard out.
Further, Gentry denied saying a racial slur during a debriefing, state police spokesperson Cindy Murphy said.
The statement from the agency did not name either trooper, but referred to "distorted and unclear versions" of the video that accompanied "inaccurate captions, altered audio recordings and inflammatory commentary" on social media. The statement says some posts misidentified troopers involved, although it does not name a certain person or group who made the error.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday reviewed an incident report and video footage of the pursuit from three state police patrol vehicles, including Gentry's and Haynie's. State police officials also showed a reporter clips from the video that had been edited to remove excess noise from sirens, wind and other voices.
Authorities did not permit recordings of the cleaned-up audio clips Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation.
Gentry appears to have yelled, "Climb! Climb! Climb your f****** big ass -- I'll f*** you up!" they said Thursday.
State police Deputy Director Lt. Col. Mike Kennedy said Gentry was likely referring to Beard's weight when he said that. The incident report lists Beard's weight as 273 pounds and height as 5 feet, 7 inches.
"Digital evidence examiners simply take what is there and make it more discernible," Hagar said in the statement, referring to the work done by state police investigators to try to clarify the audio recording. "In this case, investigators have determined that no racial slur was used."
If Gentry or another trooper had directed a racial slur at a suspect, they would almost certainly be fired as a result of an investigation into the misconduct, Kennedy said.
Racop remains unconvinced that the trooper did not use a racial slur, he said in an interview Thursday.
"That doesn't fit," Racop said upon hearing authorities' explanation for what was yelled.
As for how he identified Haynie as the trooper that yelled the profanity and the possible slur, Racop said he compared voices heard in the dashcam footage, which he got from someone who got it from state police.
Before posting, Racop dropped the background noise slightly and enhanced the sound of the voices in the clip, he said.
"We didn't add any audio to it," Racop said.
Racop also referred to a user's comment on the Natural State Transparency video that indicated the trooper was Haynie.
Possibly more concerning than the reported misrepresentation Racop made, Murphy said, is the fact that he named Haynie's wife in a blog post and listed her place of work.
"Wonder if she uses that language at work too?" Racop wrote in the post.
In the state police statement, Senior Cpl. Willie Robinson, who is the president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Black State Troopers Coalition, said he had reviewed multiple versions of the video and audio recordings and found no evidence that a slur was used.
"After listening to the video and audio at slow speed multiple times, I did not hear the Trooper say the N word," Robinson said in the statement.
The posts identifying Haynie prompted authorities to speak out more than anything else, Hagar said in the statement.
"These egregious attacks can ruin reputations and harm families," Hagar said. "We could not remain silent."
Beard's Nov. 21 flight and the state police pursuit are a prime example of the consequences of fleeing from state police in Arkansas, the statement says.
After Gentry pulled Beard over for a traffic violation on a Miller County road off of U.S. 67, Beard gave a false name and then sped off from the traffic stop, leading Gentry and other troopers on a roughly 12-minute chase on the highway that reached speeds of around 121 mph, according to a state police incident report. In the process, Beard swerved in front of oncoming vehicles around 20 times, forcing several to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid being hit, the state police statement says.
In the incident report, Gentry writes that he wasn't sure if Beard's erratic behavior was an attempt to get him to call off the pursuit, or if Beard was attempting to kill himself in a collision.
After a spike strip placed by Hope police popped several of Beard's tires, troopers were able to ram him onto a grassy shoulder where he was stopped, the report says. Gentry punched Beard in the face several times and used his Taser to stun Beard before he was able to arrest him, the report says.
Beard was charged with felony fleeing and aggravated assault, while prosecutors from Miller and Hempstead counties are considering additional aggravated assault charges, the state police statement says.