Officials still reviewing actions by state prison superintendent recorded knocking a man down at Little Rock restaurant

Video shows him punching man in eatery

DeAngelo Earl, superintendent of the Arkansas state prison in Wrightsville, is shown in this September 2021 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Rachel O'Neal)

Nearly three months after the superintendent of a state prison in Wrightsville was captured on video knocking a man to the ground at a Little Rock restaurant, the case remains under investigation by the Pulaski County sheriff's office.

The state Department of Corrections, likewise, is still reviewing the incident.

"There's not really a lot I can say because it's a personnel matter," department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said.

Surveillance footage from Santa Fe Grill on Arch Street, captured by the body camera of a Pulaski County sheriff's deputy as he watched it while investigating the June 26 incident, shows Wrightsville Unit Superintendent DeAngelo Earl step through the front door and punch Christian Sansbury, knocking him to the floor.

Questioned later that night by sheriff's deputies about punching Sansbury, Earl acknowledged he "knocked his ass out" but said Sansbury and another man had been threatening him.

Weeks before the altercation, Sansbury and his friend Taylor Reaves had been arrested at the prison on a trespassing charge, and Earl can be heard in the body camera video telling deputies he suspected they were trying to set up a "drop."

As Sansbury and Reaves arrived at the restaurant, Earl can be seen in surveillance footage approaching their vehicle and pulling on the car's door handle.

Reaves told deputies that Earl tried to punch Sansbury through the closed window, and deputies observed that Earl ripped the car's door handle off.

Earl told deputies the two had started threatening him from the car.

"[They were] talking about what they were going to do to me, this that and the other," Earl is heard to say in the body camera footage.

The vehicle drives off, but Earl seems to imply to deputies that Sansbury was still making threats and swearing at him when the two encountered each other inside the restaurant a little later, when Sansbury returned to get his food.

"That's when I knocked his ass out, and that's exactly what I did," Earl is heard in the video.

The restaurant's surveillance footage does not have audio, so it is impossible to tell what either of the men said to each other. About two seconds pass between when Earl enters and when he hits Sansbury.

Deputies later observe that mirroring on the glass at the front of the restaurant made it unlikely that Sansbury could have seen Earl entering, while Earl could have seen Sansbury from outside.

Sansbury acknowledges he and Reaves yelled "f*** you" at Earl in the parking lot, but he denies threatening the warden. He and Reaves were annoyed after the earlier incident at the prison and their arrest, he said.

Earl can be seen on the deputy's body camera returning Sansbury's phone, which he took from Sansbury after knocking him down in the restaurant. He doesn't say why he took the phone.

Pulaski County deputies released both Sansbury and Earl without charges, giving them the incident report number and telling them to get in touch with the prosecutor if they wanted to press charges, the incident report states.

Both Sansbury and Reaves pleaded innocent to misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges stemming from a state police arrest on April 6, court records showed. A spokesperson for state police had not responded Thursday to a request for the incident report from the trespassing arrest, and was not clear if that was the incident Earl was referring to in the video.

Corrections Department officials are aware of the incident at the restaurant, Tyler said Thursday, and a review of the incident was underway. Earl is still employed by the department and was not on leave, she said.

Sansbury said he provided a deputy's body camera footage and the Pulaski County incident report to at least one YouTube creator who posted the footage.

He also provided the footage to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette while an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request with the sheriff's office was pending Thursday.

A spokesperson for the sheriff's office, who provided the incident report, said the investigation is ongoing.

Sansbury thinks that Pulaski County authorities didn't respond to the attack at all, he said in an interview Thursday.

"There's no other way to put it," he said.

He's attempted to press charges against Earl, he said Thursday, but has not been able to get in touch with the prosecutor.

Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones recused himself from the incident, he said Thursday, because after the video was posted to YouTube, many people called his office leaving nasty messages and creating an "unhealthy" relationship between his office and the incident.

Another reason for the recusal is that Jones' office is still prosecuting Sansbury in the misdemeanor trespassing case from April, he said.

After the flood of calls, Jones said, he discovered that Sansbury and his attorney had filed a complaint with his office, but said the office had not been able to get in touch with him. Jones was briefly in contact with Sansbury's attorney, he said.

More calls came this week after another YouTube channel posted video from the incident, he said.

"We're never going to file charges based on a video posted on the internet," Jones said.

If Sansbury wants to press charges, another prosecutor could be put over the case, but Jones wasn't sure if that was being done or not.

"I don't know where it is beyond that," Jones said.

Sansbury said his attorney was briefly in contact with Jill Kamps, a deputy prosecutor, but Sansbury hasn't heard from anyone about the case in about three weeks, he said.

Jones said some of the callers were rude and threatening toward Kamps, who as far as he knew had nothing to do with Sansbury's legal complaint. One person threatened to dox Kamps, Jones said, meaning they would release her personal information online.

An employee at the Wrightsville Unit hung up on an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter who called Thursday afternoon asking if Earl was there.

Sansbury thinks that he would have faced charges if he did to someone what Earl did to him, he said.

"I guarantee you, if we switched positions, and he was that big, and I was that small, I would be in prison," Sansbury said.