Chief: Fort Worth Officer Made Mistakes in Confrontation with Woman

Fort Worth's chief of police says an officer he suspended following a videotaped arrest of a woman and her daughters made multiple errors in responding to a call that a neighbor allegedly assaulted the woman's son.

Now, the officer at the center of the viral video arrest will speak out for the first time, due to testify Wednesday in a Civil Service Commission hearing.

Officer William Martin will share his side of the story on what was going through his mind when he arrested Jacqueline Craig and her two teenage daughters.

Martin is appealing his 10-day suspension for using excessive force. He's already served the punishment, but his attorney says the appeal is about clearing his name.

Craig and a neighbor both called police after the neighbor allegedly grabbed her 7-year-old son by the neck for littering in his yard. After a confrontation, Craig and her daughters were arrested instead of the neighbor.

An assistant and a deputy chief were later demoted, accused of leaking Officer Martin's body camera footage and information from his personnel file.

Chief Joel Fitzgerald testified all afternoon Tuesday, revealing his detailed perspective on a case that has caused the department so much controversy.

The chief now says that after considering the excessive force further, he would have increased Martin's punishment from 10 to 15 days if he could do it over again.

"There's a cacophony of problems with what happened with Officer Martin out there that day," Fitzgerald said.

Martin sat just a few feet away from his boss, while Fitzgerald talked through the viral video, pointing out every mistake he thinks Martin made.

He says the officer went wrong from the start, in failing to investigate Craig's allegations that a neighbor choked her son.

"I would think that that would be the predominant thought process, going over to Ms. Craig, 'Where is your child? Can I see him?' Verifying if he was in fact choked," Fitzgerald said.

The chief also found that Martin used excessive force when he "chopped" a teenage girl in the throat to push her back and when he lifted Craig's older daughter's arms over her head when she wouldn't answer a question.

"That is painful and that should not be a response that we use in regards to not hearing an answer to a question," Fitzgerald said.

That question of excessive force is at the heart of this appeal. Martin has already served his 10-day suspension and his attorney says the number of days is not the point.

"As a police officer, a charge for a violation of excessive force is very serious," said attorney Terry Daffron.

Daffron says the viral videos that have gotten so much attention don't tell the whole story.

"The videos only show you one aspect of the situation that was ongoing that day," Daffron said. "Videos don't have feelings. They don't feel, they can't articulate if they're being pushed or you feel pressure from someone coming behind you."

She also says Martin wants a chance to finally speak for himself.

"Everyone has talked about him and talked for him," Daffron said. "Now this is his chance to speak."

He will have that chance when his testimony begins at about 9 a.m. Wednesday.

During his testimony, Fitzgerald admitted he was originally willing to settle for a seven-day suspension with consideration for a promotion, if Martin agreed not to appeal and wrote a letter of apology to the Craig family. That did not happen.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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