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Fort Worth settles with Jacqueline Craig for $150K pending approval years after viral arrest

Craig's family filed a lawsuit against the city five years ago after they say Fort Worth police violated their constitutional rights during their arrest.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The City of Fort Worth has agreed to pay $150,000 to Jacqueline Craig, pending council approval, to settle a lawsuit Craig filed against the city alleging police violated her rights during an arrest.

The arrest first occurred nearly six years ago, with video of the arrest going viral, gaining more than 5 million views and causing protests in the city calling for the arresting officer, William Martin, and former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald to be fired.

"I, for a while, have called Jacqueline Craig the Rosa Parks of our time," Craig's attorney, Lee Merritt said. "Her experience has changed the culture of policing in Fort Worth. She will remain a staple in the conversation for police reform."

The lawsuit accused Martin of using excessive force and alleged Fort Worth policymakers — specifically Fitzgerald, Mayor Betsy Price and the Fort Worth City Council — in general, failed to supervise or discipline officers who used excessive force and failed to try to identify those officers.

Martin had responded to Craig's call for police assistance in December 2016. Craig had called 911 to report that her son had been choked by a neighbor. That's when Martin was caught on video questioning Craig's parenting. 

The lawsuit describes how she and the officer became involved in a heated exchange that ended up with Craig and her 15-year-old daughter being forced to the ground and placed in handcuffs, all while a Taser was pointed at them.

Fitzgerald was fired in May 2019 after serving as police chief for three-and-a-half years. Martin received a 10-day suspension following the incident.

Merritt said the incident led to the Fort Worth community being empowered to have a voice in city policy.

"So many members of the community are now regular attendees to city council meetings," he said. "But not only that, we’ve seen commissions that have been put together in Jacqueline Craig’s honor, that have been put together to discuss ways that the expansive Fort Worth Police Department can be reformed. And we’ve seen some reforms implemented that I think will make the community a safer place.”

Jason Smith, a Fort Worth Discrimination Lawyer and Civil Rights Attorney, said while he was glad to see the Craig family was getting compensation, they deserved more. 

"There are a lot of great things about Fort Worth, but it has a race problem, and it needs to quit sweeping it under the rug and deal with it," said Smith in a statement to WFAA. 

Since the lawsuit, there has been new leadership put in place at the Fort Worth Police Department. Police Chief Neil Noakes now leads the department, which just received its final report outlining both internal and external issues, highlighting the changes in the department, need for officer accountability and community trust. 

Some of the recommendations from the outside advisors are already underway. They are recommendations that Chief Noakes has welcomed with open arms as he works to improve the police-community relationship in Fort Worth.

The city also now has a Citizen Review Board and the Office of the Police Oversight Monitor.

In a statement released Friday from the City of Fort Worth, the city admits to "no fault" as a part of the settlement. 

"The settlement will go before City Council in October for approval," a spokesperson for the city said. 

City council members will vote to approve the settlement during their October meeting.

WFAA has confirmed that Martin is still an officer with the Fort Worth Police Department. 

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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