A former Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office deputy will stand trial in district court Friday.
Eugene Watlington of Vilonia was charged with third-degree battery, a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in jail with a $2,500 fine, after video footage that was released following a high-speed chase showed him using excessive force on a subject.
Watlington posted to his personal Facebook page on Tuesday asking for "anyone that would like to be at the trial for moral support" to be at the Judge Russell L. "Jack" Roberts District Court building at 810 Parkway Street at 1 p.m. Friday.
"Hey I don’t get on here much but I want to let all of my people that have been here for me and my family know that I have court this Friday for the battery charge from the May 4 2015 incident that cost me my job and so much more," he wrote. "If you will all please pray justice will happen this [F]riday for me and my family we will greatly appreciate it. I still stand firm that I am innocent and I did all I could do and what had to do at the time under the circumstances."
Watlington was fired from the sheriff’s office following the May 4, 2015, arrests of Harvey Martin III and Christopher James Cummings.
Internal and federal investigations of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office were triggered after footage captured by a Mayflower police officer’s body camera showed several deputies hitting and kicking Martin following the chase from Mayflower to Conway.
"Toward the end of the struggle it looks like [Watlington] kicked the arrestee [Martin] numerous times that I consider to be clearly not needed as a part of the effort to subdue the arrestee," then-sheriff Andy Shock stated in Watlington’s July 10, 2015, termination letter. "Because I think you violated the county’s use of force policy, I have to impose discipline."
The internal investigation ended with Watlington’s termination. The federal color of law investigation remains open.
Watlington’s wife, Amy, told the Log Cabin Democrat that Eugene preferred not to comment on the matter.
Charges against Martin were dropped after prosecutors learned Cummings held him at gunpoint to flee police. Martin was also working with the Conway Police Department’s Drug Taskforce as an unofficial confidential informant to help locate Cummings, a parole absconder.
Cummings has since been convicted of two counts of attempted capital murder for shooting at police during the chase. He was sentenced to 175 years in prison.