Jacqueline Craig called Forth Worth police in December, saying her neighbor, a man named Itamar Vardi, grabbed her 7-year-old son by the neck after the child allegedly refused to pick up some litter that he’d dropped.
Once police arrived to investigate, Craig, who is black, and Officer William Martin, who is white, got into a heated exchange after the officer failed to take Craig’s allegation seriously.
A family member of Craig’s filmed the exchange with a cell phone.
“Well, why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” Martin can be heard asking in the cell phone footage.
“He can’t prove to me that my son littered,” Craig responds. “But it doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t. It doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”
“Why not?” the officer challenges.
The situation escalates, and Martin threatens to throw Craig and her family in jail when one of her daughters approaches them. He grabs the daughter, then pushes Craig to the ground and arrests her, along with her 19-year-old daughter Brea Hymond and her 15-year-old daughter.
The cell phone video, which can be seen below, contains expletives.
Craig’s 15-year-old daughter was released from police custody hours later, while Craig and Hymond were released the following night. Their charges included interference with public duty, failing to provide identification, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
After performing an internal investigation, the Fort Worth Police Department decided to suspend Martin without pay for 10 days earlier this month. At that point, police had not pursued charges against Vardi or dropped charges against the Craig family.
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald called the administrative sanctions a “significant punishment” during a press conference announcing Martin’s suspension.
But Lee Merritt, the Craig family’s attorney, disagreed.
“It sends a message out to the entire community of Fort Worth that it’s okay to assault children if they’re young black boys,” he told The Huffington Post when the sanctions were announced.
On Thursday, however, the Fort Worth Police Department announced that it would not only “withdraw all matters related” to Craig and Hymond, but would also slap Vardi with a misdemeanor assault charge.
The decision comes just hours after Merritt’s office released what appears to be body camera footage of the arrest, the attorney told HuffPost on Thursday.
Merritt said an anonymous source emailed his office the footage, which he and his team decided to send to The Associated Press. The police department had previously denied repeated requests to release Martin’s body cam footage, he said.
According to the AP, the audio in the body camera footage matches audio in the viral video that the family member filmed. The body camera footage shows Martin pushing the 15-year-old daughter into a police car and threatening to use his stun gun against the women.
A spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Police Department said the department was aware the body camera footage had been released, but refused to confirm its authenticity.
Merritt called the police department’s decision to drop the charges “too little, too late” and hoped the new footage would make the police department and mayor’s office “feel the pressure to accept that they made a mistake” in their handling of the case.
Craig and her family won’t be appeased until Martin is fired from the police department and criminal charges are brought against him, Merritt said.
Martin served his 10-day suspension and returned to work. He is currently appealing the disciplinary action, and is no longer assigned to patrol the neighborhood where he arrested Craig and her daughters.
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Source: HuffPost Black Voices