Fort Worth police suspend officer in controversial arrest video
A Fort Worth officer seen in a Facebook video arresting a woman who called police after a neighbor allegedly assaulted her young son has been suspended without pay for 10 days, authorities said Monday.
Officer William A. Martin’s suspension came after an internal affairs investigation into the December 21 incident, which also resulted in the woman’s two teenage daughters being taken into custody.
The cell phone video, which was posted to Facebook that evening, sparked outrage and allegations of racism. Martin is white and the woman, Jacqueline Craig, and her daughters are black. Craig’s family attorneys criticized the decision and claim the suspension doesn’t amount to justice.
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald acknowledged some officers make mistakes and deserved to be fired, but he doesn’t believe that’s the case for Martin.
“Officer Martin was contrite. He’s ready to get back to work. He is very sorry for what has transpired,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said the investigation showed “There were violations… neglect of duty would be one violation, discourtesy, we felt like there was some inappropriate contact that he had with two of the females,” according to CNN affiliate KTVT.
Fitzgerald said the case against the officer will be presented to the grand jury.
Martin had previously been placed on restricted duty on December 22 after the video surfaced. His name was not publicly released before.
‘It’s us against them’
Lee Merritt, a family attorney, said he was “livid about the decision to give a 10-day vacation to an officer who was guilty of gross misconduct by anybody’s estimation.”
Merritt said the department’s decision sends “dangerous messages to this community,” including that the African-American community cannot rely on the Fort Worth department.”
Merritt said another message is that “it’s us against them” when it comes to how police officers deal with the black community.
“That when it comes down to either protecting themselves or our children — they would choose themselves,” Merritt said.
Jasmine Crockett, another attorney, told reporters that Craig was upset and had been crying.
Crockett said Craig told her: “You would get more justice if someone kicked a dog.”
Craig’s attorneys are calling for charges to be dropped against the family, for the neighbor in the initial confrontation to be charged and for Martin to be fired.
‘Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?’
The video, shot in a residential neighborhood, begins with Martin, who is in uniform, talking to a man standing on the sidewalk.
Martin then approaches a woman, identified as Craig, who tells the officer her young son complained that a man, the neighbor, had grabbed and choked the youngster. The man said the boy had littered on his property, Craig said.
“Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” the video shows Martin asking Craig.
“He can’t prove to me that my son littered,” Craig replies. “But it doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t, it doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”
“Why not?” the officer replies.
The video then shows the argument escalating. Martin wrestles Craig and her younger daughter to the pavement, handcuffs them and puts them in a patrol car. He also pulls out a stun gun, though it’s unclear whether Martin uses it.
The clip ends with an apparent scuffle between Martin and the shooter of the video after he moves in to arrest her as well.
Craig’s older daughter, Brea Hymond, shot the video, according to Crockett. It was uploaded to social media by a relative. Crockett acknowledged the family had a longer video of the incident but said they wouldn’t release it at this time.
The man Craig accused of assaulting her son was not arrested, though police said they have taken a report and were investigating.
Craig, 46, and Hymond, 19, were charged with resisting arrest, search or transport and interfering with public duties, Crockett said. They were quickly released. Crockett said that Craig’s 15-year-old daughter was also taken into custody and released to an older sister.
Trying to rebuild community trust
Fort Worth police were heavily criticized for the way the call was handled. Officials on Monday emphasized the department’s focus is on regaining the trust of the Fort Worth community. Fitzgerald said he hopes to speak to Craig as part of that process.
The chief said that after serving his suspension Martin will return to the neighborhood he previously patrolled to re-establish a relationship with the community.
Merritt said the family declined Fitzgerald’s request to meet with them and don’t plan to meet with him in the immediate future.
“He had a chance to speak to them, and he spoke to them very clearly through his decision today,” Merritt said.