Fort Worth

NGAN Calls for Action Against Officer, Neighbor in Viral Video

Community leaders are keeping the pressure on the Fort Worth Police Department demanding further action against an officer seen on a viral Facebook video last week.

The video, which shows the officer wrestling Jacqueline Craig and her teenage daughters to the ground after they had called police for help, has been viewed more than 3 million times and has sparked debate on social media about the officer's use of force.

On Monday, a group of faith leaders said they will not back down until the officer is fired, along with several other demands.

There is also a new, extended version of the video up online that shows the 12 minutes before police responded. In it you can see Jacqueline Craig and her family waiting for police just down the street from the neighbor, whom they've accused of grabbing and choking Craig's 7-year-old son.

In the video you can hear discussion that the neighbor also called police for help. It’s unclear which party called first.

At one point in the video a man pulls up and approaches the neighbor but Craig pushes him out of the way. The rest of the video shows what’s already been circulating, from the time the officer arrived through the arrests.

Community activists remain focused on the chunk of the video where the officer is heard asking why Craig didn't teach her son not to litter in the neighbor’s yard and then respond "Why not" when she says it doesn't give the man a right to touch her son.

Activists renewed their calls on Monday to have the officer fired and for both the officer and the neighbor to be charged.

"We want him charged and we don't want him charged in the month of February. We want him charged in the month of December," said Dominique Alexander, head of the activist group the Next Generation Action Network (NGAN).

"This was not an isolated event," said Minister Lee Muhammad of the Fort Worth Chapter of the Nation of Islam. "This goes on every day. The only difference was this was caught on camera."

The activists are also upset with how Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald characterized the incident in a press conference this past Friday.

"I can't call it racism," Fitzgerald said, about the officer's actions in the video. "What I can say is that I noticed in the video that the officer was rude, and there's a difference between rude and racism and we have to make sure that what we're doing is looking at what actually happened."

"To characterize the officer's actions as rude means that there's no criminality in his actions," said NGAN legal counsel Kim Cole. "There's nothing for him to be charged with. That's a big issue, and also to dismiss the element of race from this closes the door on that discussion on how we improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are hired to protect."

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price sat down with a group of faith leaders last week but the activists who spoke Monday said they weren't part of that discussion. They say everyone needs to come to the table before the community can move forward.

"To this point we have not sat down and had a serious honest conversation about race in Fort Worth and in this country," said Muhammad.

Fort Worth police say they are moving the internal investigation as quickly as possible but there are a lot of necessary steps involved, from talking to witnesses through speaking with the officer's entire chain of command.

An attorney for the Craig family, Lee Merritt, told NBC 5 police came to speak with the 7-year-old boy in this case over the Christmas weekend. Merritt believes that shows urgency in the investigation that detectives came out over a holiday weekend.

But Merritt says charges need to be dropped against his clients before they can trust the investigation is fair.

The officer remains on restricted desk duty while the investigation is ongoing.

Chief Fitzgerald, Mayor Price and other elected officials have promised a thorough investigation.

NGAN has also scheduled a rally outside the Tarrant County Courthouse for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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