Updated Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, 3:30 a.m. EDT: The Fort Worth Police Department has dropped charges against Jacqueline Craig, 46, and her daughter, Brea Hymond, 19, and will not pursue charges against Officer William Martin for the violent Dec. 21 arrests of Craig and her daughters, Dallas News reports.
Craig and Hymond faced charges of resisting arrest, interference with a “peace” officer and failure to provide identification. Craig’s youngest daughter, who was also arrested in the incident, was not charged with a crime.
FWPD made the announcement Thursday, just one day after leaked police-body-camera and internal police documents exposing Martin’s history of using excessive force were published on The Root.
“This decision didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Chief Joel Fitzgerald told WFAA-TV. “My decision to pull back these charges was something that I thought was right, something that we owed the community and the Craig family in particular.”
Itamar Vardi, the white neighbor who sparked the incident after he allegedly choked Craig’s 7-year-old son, faces a misdemeanor assault charge. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office determined that there was not enough harm caused to the child to warrant a felony charge of harm to a child.
Jasmine Crockett, co-counsel, along with S. Lee Merritt, for the Craig family, said the noncharge against Vardi, who may face a fine, was unconscionable and a slap in the face to the Craig family.
See the press conference below:
The police-body-camera video of the violent Dec. 21, 2016, arrest of a Fort Worth, Texas, woman, and documents related to the arrest, as well as the officer’s history of using excessive force, have been obtained by the attorney for the woman’s family and shared exclusively with The Root.
As previously reported by The Root, Officer William Martin, 36, who is white, was captured on video antagonizing, assaulting and, ultimately, arresting Jacqueline Craig, a 46-year-old black woman. Her two daughters—Brea Hymond, 19, and a 15-year-old girl who was not identified—were also arrested and later released.
Craig had called for police assistance to report that a white male neighbor choked her 7-year-old son after the child allegedly littered in his yard. The neighbor admitted to grabbing the child by the neck, an action that Officer Martin indicated, in a statement to internal affairs that was shared with The Root by Craig family attorney S. Lee Merritt, he considered less egregious and more plausible than “choking”:
Additionally, according to Martin in his statement:
The W/M [white male] stated that a child had thrown a piece of trash in his yard. The W/M approached the child and grabbed his arm and told him to pick up the trash. When the child refused, the W/M grabbed the child by the back of the neck and demanded that the child pick up the trash.
Attorney Merritt said he received the Fort Worth Police Department internal documentation as well as the video recording from the police bodycam from a trusted police source who was unauthorized to release any information on the case.
Under the laws of the state of Texas, attorneys for the Craig family are legally entitled to the complete investigative file, records and recordings of this incident and any officers involved, Merritt said. Howver, according to Merritt, the FWPD has denied and/or delayed several requests from his law office to provide this information.
The Root’s repeated requests to the Fort Worth Police Department for the police bodycam footage and other documentation regarding the Craig case also were denied.
Regarding the case itself, Merritt said that despite the documentation and video footage, the neighbor’s admission to Martin has been repeatedly denied by the FWPD. The department also has declined to refer charges concerning the neighbor to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
This is likely the case because Martin decided whom he would criminalize as soon as he arrived on the scene. In an exchange captured in the video footage, the police officer appears condescending from the very first moments of his interactions with Craig:
“My son is 7-years-old, [he] don’t have the right to grab him and choke him,” Craig tells Martin, referring to the neighbor.
“Why don’t you teach your son not to litter,” asks Martin in a mocking and accusatory tone.
“He can’t prove to me that my son did or didn’t, but it doesn’t matter,” Craig says. “That doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”
“Why not,” Martin asks.
In Martin’s statement to the Fort Worth Police Department Internal Affairs Division, he admitted that he didn’t know why he asked Craig that question, but that it was possible he was “irritated by the tone and level of [Craig’s] voice” and annoyed that a “littering situation had gotten so out of hand.”
Though an initial Facebook Live video of the incident showed a great deal of the encounter, the bodycam footage shows so much more. It captures Martin using excessive force to get Hymond, 19, to answer his questions, twisting the teen’s handcuffed arms above her head.
In addition, Martin is seen kicking Craig’s handcuffed 15-year-old daughter seconds after she attempts to wiggle into his car without the use of her hands.
“Martin states while he was handcuffing Jacqueline Craig, Brea Hymond pushed him,” Merritt said in a statement to The Root. “Brea Hymond never approaches Martin as she stands at a distance recording the incident. He further states Craig pulled away her arms and actively tried to resist arrest. This never happens.”
“He also states Brea Hymond pulled her arms away and resisting arrest, this never happened,” Merritt continued. “[Martin] further states Jacqueline Craig refused to identify herself, which she is seen doing in the video at 11:10.”
“In order to justify false charges, he lies about several facts clearly proven false by his bodycam video,” Merritt added.
Editor’s note: See NSFW video below. Trigger warning: Misogynoir; police brutality; white supremacist violence.
Officer Martin’s use of excessive force did not begin with Craig and her daughters. In 2013 he used a Taser on two black male students at Dunbar High School, according to the documents shared by Merritt with The Root.
In that instance, several students were allegedly on the roof of the high school. When Martin approached, they allegedly began to run. Martin chased the students; then, citing “tactical disadvantage”—including long distance, his history of ankle injuries, and feeling winded from running and jumping—he deployed his Taser against department procedure.
In a 2013 Fort Worth Police Department Use of Force report, Capt. Edwin Kraus stated, “Officer has to know that suspect is armed to qualify to use taser [pdf] under d(1). Under d(2), just being in a “tactical disadvantage” does not appear to authorize taser use in this circumstance because suspect was just running and was 25 feet away during the 1st missed deployment, and about 23 feet away when taser made contact while AP was fleeing. The incident also does not fit the requirement listed under d(3). Please take appropriate action based upon officers’ history concerning use of force issues.”
Martin was not punished for his clear use of excessive force in that incident, despite previous instances of him using excessive force noted in an internal police document that can be read below.
As previously previously reported by The Root, Martin was suspended for 10 days following his arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her daughters. Craig and Hymond were arrested on charges of resisting arrest, interference with a “peace” officer and failure to provide identification. Craig’s youngest daughter was not charged with a crime.
If the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office decides to drop the charges against Craig and Hymond, that is still not enough, and the office can’t pretend that it is. Not further criminalizing an innocent family is not a favor for which the FWPD or the district attorney’s office deserves gratitude.
Craig and her daughter did absolutely nothing wrong. A distraught mother called for police assistance with the expectation that they would protect and serve, not demean and assault.
And in the video, in response to being told that he is being recorded, Martin says, “Me, too, but mine’s in HD.”
Said family attorney Merritt: “By manipulating, delaying and denying the release of bodycam video, police departments embolden bad cops to brazenly violate civil rights in high definition, confident that these images are not likely to be released to the public. Just as this video from Martin was not willfully released by the FWPD.
“That’s why we are mobilizing the community behind the rallying cry #InjusticeInHD,” Merritt continued. “To let these police officers know that we see them very clearly.”
Officer William Martin is not a public servant; he is a public menace. He and Craig’s neighbor—another violent white man being protected under the law—are the only ones that disturbed the peace.
“We have four demands,” Merritt told The Root. “Fire and charge Officer Martin with assault, perjury, false arrest and official corruption; charge the neighbor with felony assault of a minor; and drop the charges against the Craig family.”
Nothing short of these demands can be considered justice, and Merritt is not settling for less than justice for his clients—neither should we.