FORT WORTH — Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said Friday that the decision to not pursue charges against Jacqueline Craig and her daughter was his alone, and that he wasn’t pressured by protesters or by the leak of the body-cam video of Craig’s arrest last month.
“I was the final decision-maker,” Fitzgerald said at a news conference. “I had time to reflect upon this. I can’t say I made the best initial decision.”
Craig and her two teenage daughters were arrested Dec. 21 after a heated exchange with officer William Martin, who had responded to Craig’s report that her son had been assaulted by a neighbor.
The arrests were captured on video and broadcast on Facebook, where the footage went viral.
Initially, police decided to refer the case to a grand jury to determine if any charges should be filed.
But on Thursday, more than a month after the viral arrest incident, police announced that Craig and her daughter, Brea Hymond, would not be charged and that the neighbor involved would be ticketed for a Class C assault.
“I own my decision,” Fitzgerald said Friday.
He said he decided to not pursue charges against Craig and her daughter this week and told City Council members of his decision in an executive session Tuesday.
Fitzgerald said he didn’t inform Craig until Thursday, the same day body-cam footage of the incident was leaked to Craig’s attorney, who provided the video to The Associated Press.
Also on Friday, Fitzgerald reiterated that officer Martin’s punishment of a paid 10-day suspension, which he has already served, won’t be increased, despite protesters and Craig’s attorney calling for Martin to be fired.
“He’s already received his discipline,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s not going to receive any double jeopardy.”
Martin was in training this week and he won’t be returning to patrol work “any time soon,” Fitzgerald said.
In the same news conference Friday, Mayor Betsy Price said, “I don’t say that I necessarily agreed” with Martin’s punishment after viewing the body-cam footage, but Price declined to elaborate.
“This incident is deeply troubling,” Price said. “(Craig and her family) called Fort Worth PD for assistance and it ended badly. We are 100 percent in support of the charges against the Craig family being dropped.”
Price said she had reached out to Craig and her daughters with the hopes of meeting with them.
Craig’s attorneys, Lee Merritt and Jasmine Crockett, said Thursday that Craig was upset at the chief’s decision to only charge the neighbor, Itamar Vardi, with a misdemeanor in the assault of her son.
“This child was in pain, and the Fort Worth Police Department was well aware of it,” Crockett said. “Yet they decided to insult us and slap us in the face (by ticketing the neighbor).”
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Following Friday’s news conference, Dominique Alexander, a minister, activist and founder of the Next Generation Action Network, a Grand Prairie-based social justice organization, reiterated demands that the chief fire officer Martin and said he was too soft in his discipline.
“I don’t care if you give him a severance package, I don’t care if you give him early retirement, I don’t care what it is, get him out of Fort Worth,” Alexander said. “Clearly, you did not go about state law giving that man a ticket. as long as that child says it hurts, state law is very clear, and I know that from a personal experience.”
The group plans to rally Saturday at the Tarrant County Courthouse.
Alexander also criticized the City Council for not stepping in and handling the situation administratively.
“We care about the city making a bold statement saying (they) are not going to tolerate this,” Alexander said. “The city mayor, city manager and city council needs to make a bold statement to the community. This is an issue of humanity.”
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report.)
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