A white Texas police officer caught on cellphone video wrestling a Black woman, Jacqueline Craig, and her daughter to the ground was suspended without pay for 10 days, but he will not be fired.
After an internal investigation, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, the city’s first Black chief, said that Officer William Martin was “contrite” for his behavior, calling the suspension “significant punishment” during a press conference last week. Prior to his suspension, Martin had been placed on restrictive duty.
The case will also go before a grand jury. Fitzgerald has called Martin’s actions “rude” but not necessarily racist. The officer is appealing the suspension, which was effective January 10.
A cellphone video that has gone viral showsMartin taking down Craig, who called 911 because her neighbor allegedly choked her son for littering on December 21.
The video, filmed by Craig’s 19-year-old daughter, shows Craig explaining to the officer that she called Fort Worth police to report a neighbor who had allegedly choked her 7-year-old son after he supposedly littered in his yard.
At some point the officer asks her why she didn’t teach her son not to litter. She responds by saying whether her child did or not, the man didn’t have the right to choke him.
The officer then asksher, “Why not”
Martin says that if she “pissed” him off he would take her to jail.
After the verbal exchange between Craig and the officer begins to escalate, her 15-year old daughter then steps between the two, facing her mother seemingly to calm her down. The officer grabsthe girl. He then takesCraig to the ground, handcuffsher and pushesa stun gun into herback. Martin then pointsthe Taser at her daughter.
He then walksover to the girl, grabs her by the back of the neck, turnsher head to the street and handcuffsher.
Craig and both of her daughters were arrested.
Fitzgerald said the Facebook Live video, as well as Martin’s body-worn camera, were reviewed during the investigation.
The disciplinary letter Fitzgerald sent to the Fort Worth Civil Service Commissionsays Martin’s neglect of duty includes violating “state and departmental rules by using excessive force, being disrespectful, and failing to thoroughly investigate a criminal offense.”
The chief said it was his decision to suspend Martin for 10 days, even though some members of his command staff felt he should have been more compassionate.
The letter also states that Martin conveyed a “willingness to accept counseling and criticism for his actions.”
At the press conferenceCraig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, described Craig’s reaction to the officer’s suspension.
“She was in a state of disbelief when I first told her,” Merritt said.”She had a very hard time reconciling what happened to her with this kind of result.”
The Alleged Choking of Craig’s Son
Merritt said in a press conference in December that the “paper” Craig’s 7-year-old son discarded as he walked along the sidewalk, for which he was allegedly choked by their neighbor, ended up being raisins from an after school snack.
He is calling for charges against Craig and her two daughters, including resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, to be dropped; for the officer to be fired and charged criminally with assault; and for charges to be filed against the man accused of choking Craig’s son.
According to the Star-Telegram, at a community meeting on Thursday night Fitzgerald asked an assistant chief, Ed Kraus, to show how the neighbor choked Craig’s child.
The investigator placed his hand on the chief’s shoulder.
The chief addressed the crowd, “Is that what you envisioned of what was meant by choking”
“Not as we know choking as a blockage of the airway,” Kraus answered.
“Some here believe a child was choked and nothing was done about that. We can agree that one citizen should never put his hands on another person’s child,” Fitzgerald said.
“The perception among many here is that we allowed a child to be choked and nothing was done. That’s patently wrong. We have to get out of this idea that we are trying to hide things. We are a transparent agency. We went out to the community and talked to people.”
“The exercise that you gave here was insulting,” the Rev. Michael Moore told Fitzgerald.
“When we consider what happens in the poor communities in Fort Worth, policing is different,” Moore said. “Because had that been a white child, we wouldn’t have been here tonight. We want that perpetrator to be arrested. Put him into the system and let the system vindicate him.”
A surveillance video proves the Pinellas County, Florida, patrol deputy also lied in the police report.
In November Wayne Wagner, a Pinellas County, Fla., deputy, was fired for using excessive force on Paige Taylor during a traffic stop and for falsifying a police report.
When Sandra Bland was stopped and arrested on July 10, 2015, in Prairie View, Texas, by then-state trooper Brian Encinia, she was told she had a bad attitude.
Encinia used excessive force during the traffic stop and then lied about the incident. He was fired and indicted by the Waller County grand jury on a misdemeanor charge of lying in the police report. The 28-year-old Black woman was found hanged in her Waller County jail cell three days after her arrest.
In September, Bland’s family reached a $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful death suit against law enforcement.