Body cam footage shows different angle of controversial FW arrest

FALLOUT IN FORT WORTH AFTER BODYCAM RELEASE

New details emerged Thursday in the controversial case of a Fort Worth woman and her daughter that were arrested in a now infamous Facebook Life video before Christmas.

Pending charges against Jacqueline Craig and her teenage daughter were dropped, hours after body camera video from the arrest was leaked and uploaded to YouTube.

Fort Worth police also announced that a misdemeanor charge of assault by contact would be filed against the Craig's neighbor, who is accused of putting his hands on her son. That was the initial reason police responded to the Rock Garden neighborhood on Dec. 21. 

Shaun King, senior justice writer for the New York Daily News and a leading voice in Black Lives Matter, posted the video Thursday with the caption:

"IMPORTANT. For the very first time you are seeing the body cam video of Officer William Martin of the Fort Worth Police Department grossly harassing then brutally assaulting a mother and her family after SHE called the police on a white man in the neighborhood who choked her 7 year old son."

Warning: The video may contain graphic language. Go here if you can't see the player below.

Back in December, Facebook Live video of the arrests of Craig and her teen daughters spread online. The video sparked outrage throughout the community. Several protestes and rallies prompted some in the community to demand the officer involved be fired.

• READ: Charges dropped against mother, daughter in viral Fort Worth arrest video

While Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald admitted Ofc Martin was "rude" and should have focused on the fact that a child was choked, an investigation led to Martin being suspended for 10 days without pay.

He went back to work this week.

Fitzgerald told News 8 on Thursday it was time to drop the charges against Craig, and cite the neighbor, Itamar Vardi, for going after the child. 

"We've looked at this through a variety of lenses, and I felt it was the right thing to do. I stand by that decision," said the chief.

Fitzgerald also said the department would be pursuing the internal individual who leaked the body cam footage.

Late Thursday, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she was concerned by the leak, as well as what is seen on the actual footage.

"At this point, I think both," she said. "There are a lot of emotions in the community and on our police force also."

At an afternoon press briefing, Craig family attorney Lee Merritt said that while the charges getting dropped is a positive step, the family still wants Martin to be fired.

"They still have left this family just shy of justice," said Merritt. 

King says the video reveals several factors about the arrests, including the fact that the neighbor admitted to choking the boy, but wasn't arrested. King also says the video shows Officer Martin kicking Craig's 15-year-old daughter while arresting her, and contradicts what he said happened while he was interviewed by police.

The Fort Worth City Attorney's Office also released a statement Thursday evening calling the release of the body cam video "illegal and unauthorized" and in violation of multiple state-level codes:

Mr. Lee Merritt released to the media the Police body camera video from the Rock Garden Trail incident stating that he received the video from a trusted source that he declined to identify.  Mr. Merritt also indicated that he received material from Officer Martin’s personnel file.

Because criminal matters related to this officer and incident were still pending with the District Attorney’s Office, the City of Fort Worth was not permitted under State law to release this specific body camera footage. Release was prohibited under Texas law by the Occupations Code. Additionally, because the footage relates to an incident in which a minor was arrested, release of the video to someone other than the juvenile’s parent, guardian or attorney is also a violation of the Family Code.

The Texas Local Government Code prohibits the release of confidential information contained in a police officer’s personnel file.  

City leaders have called for a swift and thorough investigation by the Fort Worth Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit regarding this illegal and unauthorized release of information.

Officer Martin's attorney, Terry Daffron, echoed that sentiment in a statement to News 8 Thursday night:

“Today, Mr. Lee Merritt released documents and video he illegally obtained to the media. It would be reckless for me to comment on the distorted portrayal of the facts and narrative Mr. Merritt has taken out of context from his illegally obtained items. Once I receive a copy the Martin investigation, I will be in a better position to comment about important unknown facts regarding this case which should provide a more accurate account of the events and the individuals involved.”

As part of the leaked information Thursday, a document also surfaced which outlined a 2013 incident Officer Martin was involved in, in which he reportedly used a Taser during an incident at Dunbar High School.

While Fort Worth Police could not confirm the authenticity of the document, they did confirm the incident occurred. The document indicated Martin was investigated internally for that use of force. Police confirm Martin received “coaching and counseling” as a result of that investigation.

The document, and the outcome of the investigation, were not public information, according to police. These reports only become public information if the officer receives discipline in the form of a one-day suspension or more.

 

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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