A Fort Worth police officer was suspended for 10 days without pay, but will not be fired, after a viral video surfaced of him wrestling a black woman and her daughter to the ground after they'd called police for help.
Officer William A. Martin, the officer seen in the video, was informed of the punishment Monday morning by Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. According to Fort Worth Police Officer's Association President Rick Van Houten, Martin appealed the suspension Monday afternoon.
An internal affairs investigation found Martin used excessive force when he arrested Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The incident happened after Craig called 911 to report a neighbor had grabbed her 7-year-old son when the boy allegedly threw some raisins in the neighbor’s yard.
Instead of arresting the neighbor, Martin questioned why Craig didn’t teach her son not to litter and suggested the neighbor had the right to touch the boy.
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Craig had warrants for unpaid traffic tickets and was arrested for failure to identify herself and resisting arrest. Her two daughters were arrested for interfering.
Fitzgerald, joined by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, announced the punishment to the public at a news conference Monday afternoon and said Martin violated policy, is sorry for his behavior and is eager to resume active duty at the end of the suspension.
Fitzgerald said he has asked the officer, who will also be required to undergo additional training, to go back into the same community when the suspension ends "to repair relationships."
"We are not sanctioning bad behavior... People make mistakes. We have levels of mistakes that every police officer makes," Fitzgerald said. "Some things deserve punishment; some do not. Some deserve termination and some do not."
Fitzgerald said some members in the police chain of command did not agree with his disciplinary decision, but the ultimate decision was his to make. He referred questions about possible criminal charges to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office.
Grand Jury to Consider Case
A Tarrant County grand jury will consider the entire case, the district attorney’s office said.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney said the office will send the entire incident file including the department's investigation to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges should be filed against any of the parties involved.
"The report on the Craigs, the officer and the neighbor will all come together before the grand jury," spokeswoman Sam Jordan said. "They could find to press charges against all or no one."
Jordan said the office will not make any recommendations to the grand jury about charges for any of the parties. She said there is no set date, but the grand jury that was just seated will hear the case in the "next few months."
Family's Attorney Livid Over Chief's Punishment
After learning of Martin's punishment, Craig's attorney, Lee Merritt, voiced his outrage via Twitter.
Merritt previously demanded that the officer be fired and criminally charged, that all charges against the Craig family be dropped and that the neighbor be charged with assaulting her son.
During a news conference Monday afternoon Merritt said he was livid the officer was given a "vacation" as a punishment.
"They are understandably in disbelief, shocked and upset," Merritt said of the Craig family. "There are still charges pending against the Craig family."
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Fort Worth Police Issue Statement on Rock Garden Trail Incident
Fort Worth Police Chief Fitzgerald provided an update on the Rock Garden Trail Incident involving officer Martin that was captured on video on December 21.
Since the incident, the Fort Worth Police Department has conducted and completed an internal administrative investigation for several allegations of misconduct of FWPD Officer Martin. The administrative investigation yielded 5 sustained allegations that violated department policy. Today, Officer Martin was issued a ten day suspension without pay based on the sustained allegations in addition to completing supplementary training.
In the subsequent investigation, interviews were conducted of witnesses and the involved parties including a forensic interview of the juvenile at the center of the incident. As a sworn FWPD Officer, Officer Martin has received all due processes and protections permitted to him as a tenured veteran officer with no prior discipline issues. This entire situation will be referred to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office for the equitable review of any criminal matters that occurred during the aforementioned incident.
FWPD and city leaders stand united regarding the review of the matter and look forward to the procedural justice permitted under the law. We are confident that this incident is not reflective of the day to day interactions that the FWPD has in relation to citizens of our city. Additionally, FWPD will work to restore any trust and credibility that was lost during the viral encounter and reinforce prior groundwork laid within our community to an atmosphere conducive to strong working relations with our citizens. The Fort Worth Police Department is committed to taking whatever steps necessary to enhance the partnership with the community and the citizens we serve.
City leaders will reserve other comments until after the District Attorney reviews the criminal cases associated with this incident. A copy of the Internal Affairs charge letter that was sent to the Civil Service Commission is attached.