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Jacqueline Craig, who settled with City of Fort Worth for $150k after viral arrest, dies at 53

Craig's family filed a lawsuit against the city in 2017 after they say Fort Worth police violated their constitutional rights during their arrest.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Jacqueline Craig, whose viral arrest led to a $150,000 settlement with the City of the Fort Worth, has died at 53. 

Craig's attorney, Lee Merritt, confirmed to WFAA that Craig died Friday due to pancreatic cancer. Merritt said details on a memorial service will be released soon. 

Community leaders credit Craig with raising the city's expectations for police officers and encouraging others to hold authorities accountable.

"The day Jacqueline Craig was taken down to the ground, little did she know she was laying the groundwork for change in the city of Fort Worth," Innocence Project vice president Cory Session said. "She caused the City of Fort Worth to look at itself in the mirror." 

"Mirrors are not just there to reflect what you see, but to correct what you see," he continued. 

In December 2016, Craig called 911 after a neighbor grabbed her son by the neck and accused him of littering. Officer William Martin responded. 

"Why don't you teach your son not to litter?" Martin asked Craig. 

The two got into a heated exchange before Martin took Craig to the ground, placed a taser in the woman's back, and handcuffed her. He also grabbed Craig's 15-year-old daughter by the neck and arrested her, too. 

Video of the 2016 arrest earned more than 5 million views and prompted protests in Fort Worth. Marchers called for Martin and police chief Joel Fitzgerald to be fired. 

Craig sued the city, accusing Martin of using excessive force. She also alleged Fort Worth policymakers — specifically Fitzgerald, Mayor Betsy Price and the Fort Worth City Council — failed to identify, supervise or discipline officers who used excessive force.

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.

In 2022, Fort Worth paid Craig $150,000 to settle the suit. 

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 at the time. "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.”

After the arrest, the city launched a task force on race and culture. It also created the office of the police monitor and improved de-escalation training for officers. 

"She really wanted justice and she did not want this to be swept under the rug," Greater St. Stephen First Church Pastor Michael Bell said. "She didn't seek or pursue any kind of notoriety, but she wanted to make sure that others knew you can stand up and speak out."

Bell says Craig's persistence drew attention to police policies and behavior. 

"It caused us - and causes us, even now - to be more aware, more conscious, and more watchful," he said. "Eyes are open." 

"There are people who've historically been afraid of the police and afraid to say anything that happened," he continued. "Now, people will open their mouths because Jackie Craig stood up." 

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