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Charges Dropped Against Women After Attorneys Release Bodycam Footage of Viral Fort Worth Arrest

Neighbor implicated in 911 call now faces assault charge, police say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Bodycam video from a Fort Worth police officer who was suspended for wrestling a woman and her daughter to the ground appears to show the officer using his foot to push the 15-year-old girl into a police car. (Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017)

    Hours after lawyers released bodycam footage of a Fort Worth police officer wrestling a woman and her daughter to the ground, the city's police department issued a statement Thursday saying the woman has been cleared of all charges and another man has been cited for misdemeanor assault.

    The Fort Worth Police Department has worked to build a strong national reputation as a leader in community policing, service, compassion, and professionalism. We regard ourselves as a procedurally just organization and will better demonstrate its tenets—both internally and externally.

    We have consulted with the District Attorney's office and we have decided to withdraw all matters related to the arrest of Ms. Jacqueline Craig, and Ms. Brea Hymond. Mr. Itamar Vardi has been issued a citation for Assault by Contact as a result of his actions in the initial incident.

    Officer Martin has been disciplined with a ten-day suspension with no pay, and Chief Fitzgerald will not be returning him to his original assignment in the Rock Garden neighborhood at this time. Officer Martin has chosen to exercise his right to appeal this disciplinary action and a hearing will be set for a later date.

    The Police Department recognizes we must work to repair the fractured relationships in our community. We are committed to ensuring all Fort Worth Police officers live up to restoring the trust you have lost in our department.

    Craig Family's Attorneys Discuss Charges Dropped, Bodycam VideoCraig Family's Attorneys Discuss Charges Dropped, Bodycam Video

    The attorneys for the family seen in the Fort Worth police viral video discuss the police bodycam footage and the charges that were dropped on Thursday.
    (Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017)

    Attorneys representing Jacqueline Craig published bodycam video Thursday morning the police department refused to release. Officer Tamara Valle, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Police Department, said the department could not authenticate the video or the officer's disciplinary report at this time. She said the department had not released either and does not release complaints against officers that do not result in a suspension or firing.

    **WARNING: Video contains graphic language and violence.**

    The bodycam video offers a different perspective compared to another recorded by one of Craig's daughters that showed the interaction the family had with the officer after they called police to report a neighbor choked her 7-year-old son for allegedly littering in his yard.

    The audio of the bodycam video matches the audio of the Facebook video posted by Craig's family showing the interaction with Officer William Martin.

    The bodycam footage provided by Craig's attorneys also shows Martin pushing Hymond's arms, which were handcuffed, above her head from behind when she refuses to answer his question. It also shows him pushing another young female who approaches the police car. Those two incidents, along with the use of his foot to push the 15-year-old into the police car, were cited in a letter from Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald to the city's Civil Service Commission explaining the finding that Martin had used excessive force in the situation and asking for his suspension.

    Fort Worth Chief on Jacqueline Craig, Viral Video CaseFort Worth Chief on Jacqueline Craig, Viral Video Case

    Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald gives a statement after his department and the district attorney decide to drop all charges related to the arrest of Jacqueline Craig and Brea Hymond.
    (Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017)

    The video shows a coversation between Martin, Craig and her 15-year-old daughter after he placed them in handcuffs and inside his vehicle.

    "Here's the deal. When somebody's under arrest, if anybody interferes, they go to jail too," Martin told them.

    "Well, I don't know this. I'm 15 years old," Craig's daughter replied.

    Craig responds: "He got mad at me for saying what I said. That's why he did it. But it's all recorded, it's all recorded."

    The neighbor, Itamar Vardi, who was not initially charged in the incident, now faces a charge of assault by contact, a misdemeanor, according to the police department's statement. Vardi did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

    Additionally, the district attorney's office has withdrawn all matters related to the arrest of Craig and her 19-year-old daughter, Brea Hymond, and will no longer refer the cases to the grand jury.

    Attorneys for Craig said at a Thursday afternoon news conference that charges also had been dropped against Craig's 15-year-old daughter, Jacques Craig.

    The daughters were charged with resisting arrest and interfering with public duties. Jacqueline Craig was charged with resisting arrest, failure to identify herself as a fugitive and three outstanding traffic warrants.

    "We have reviewed the materials and agree with the department’s decision to withdraw these referrals," the district attorney's office said in a statement Thursday. "The grand jury system in Texas was established as a way to review felony crimes to determine whether a charge should proceed to trial or be dismissed. It is our opinion based on the facts that no felonies took place related to this incident."

    Craig's attorney, Lee Merritt, said in an email to The Associated Press that he had received the bodycam video from a trusted source whom he declined to identify.

    "Under the laws of the State of Texas, the attorneys for the Craig family are legally entitled to the complete investigative file, records and recordings of this incident and any officers involved. The FWPD have denied and/or delayed several requests from our office in providing this information," Merritt wrote.

    Martin served a 10-day suspension and has since returned to work. He is appealing his suspension with the city's Civil Service Commission and a hearing will be set for a later date.

    A disciplinary report submitted to the commission said Martin violated department policy by using excessive force and failing to thoroughly investigate. Other findings included neglect of duty, being discourteous to the public and conduct prejudicial to good order.

    The Fort Worth Police Department said Thursday Martin will be reassigned elsewhere, despite a previous plan by Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald to return Martin to the Rock Garden neighborhood and repair the damaged relationship with the community in which he worked.

    Fitzgerald said earlier this month that Martin violated policy, is sorry for his behavior and will also be required to undergo additional training.

    Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, following the department's statement Thursday, released the following statement of her own.

    “We stand in support of the Chief's decision to handle this case at the city level. This is the most appropriate avenue to address the charges in the Dec 21 Rock Garden Trail incident. I am committed to the restorative process needed to heal any breach of trust in our community. We continue to support the work of our excellent Fort Worth officers, who are tasked with so much in their roles to serve and protect our citizens. We know that healing takes time and compassionate efforts. But, as we learn from this incident, I trust that our community will grow to be even stronger," said Price.

    The internal affairs documents Craig's attorneys provided to The Associated Press said Martin was one of a handful of officers to respond to a trespassing complaint at a high school. A foot chase ensued and Martin fired his Taser twice, striking one of two black teenagers in the back as he fled. The report said Martin was ordered to undergo coaching with a supervisor for violating department policy that prohibits officers from deploying weapons to stop a foot chase, particularly if a suspect is not armed or posing a threat.

    Martin's attorney, Terry Daffron, said she would not comment "on the distorted portrayal of the facts" until she receives a copy of the investigation report.

    Valle, the police spokeswoman, said the department does not release complaints against officers that do not result in a suspension or firing.

    Fitzgerald's report about the December incident said Martin violated department policy by failing to thoroughly investigate, neglecting his duty, and being discourteous to the public and conduct prejudicial to good order.

    The Associated Press' Claudia Lauer and Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.

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