FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas police chief said Tuesday that an officer he suspended following a videotaped arrest of a woman and her daughters made multiple errors in responding to a call that a neighbor allegedly assaulted the woman’s son.
Fort Worth Chief Joel Fitzgerald said during an appeal hearing for officer William Martin that Martin was disrespectful and used excessive force in his December confrontation with Jacqueline Craig and her two teenage daughters.
Cellphone video of the confrontation, which one of Craig’s daughters recorded and posted to social media, was widely viewed and prompted claims of racism. The officer is white, and Craig and her daughters are black. Fitzgerald has denied that race played a role in the arrest.
Martin is appealing his 10-day unpaid suspension, which he has already served.
Fitzgerald said during the hearing that Martin also failed to check on Craig’s 7-year-old son, who allegedly was choked by a neighbor who saw the boy litter. The neighbor was later charged with misdemeanor assault.
“The first mistake he made, which pretty much led to the devolving of the encounter, was to not check the scene to see if there was an injured child,” Fitzgerald said during the hearing, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Martin began talking with Craig soon after responding to the disturbance and at one point asked her, “Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?”
The conversation turned into an argument and then escalated to the point where Martin forced Craig to the ground, pointed a stun gun at her and her daughters, and then arrested the three on multiple charges, including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. All the charges were later dropped.
Fitzgerald said he had great concern after seeing Martin raise one of Craig’s daughter’s handcuffed arms above her head from behind when she wouldn’t answer a question during the incident.
Terry Daffron, an attorney for Martin, said cellphone and police body camera videos don’t fully reflect how the incident unfolded.
“Everyone has the luxury of analyzing these videos … in a safe environment,” Daffron said, according to the Star-Telegram. “Officer Martin didn’t have that luxury that day. He had to make split-second decisions in a fluid environment.”
Several pieces of evidence were leaked to Craig’s lawyers before authorities had finished their investigation, including disciplinary actions and complaints previously filed against Martin that did not result in suspensions and Martin’s body camera footage of the confrontation.
The appeal hearing will resume Wednesday and could continue the rest of the week.
The Fort Worth Civil Service Commission could take 30 or more days to issue a decision once the hearing is over. The commission could overturn the suspension, accept it as recommended or adjust it.