Frustration, questions dominate Fort Worth community meeting after viral police video

TOUGH QUESTIONS LINGER ABOUT FAMILY'S ARREST

FORT WORTH--A 90-minute meeting grew increasingly heated on Thursday night in south Fort Worth, as some community members voiced frustration and dismay with the city's handling of a recent viral video.

The Facebook Live video, recorded just before Christmas and now viewed more than three million times, shows Fort Worth police officer William Martin getting into a physical altercation with an African-American woman and her daughters.

The Craig family had called 911 to report a white neighbor choked their son. The neighbor also called 911. 

Ultimately, the officer arrested the women when the group got into a heated argument.

Chief Joel Fitzgerald announced a ten day suspension for Martin earlier this week after a swift internal investigation.

But the punishment has done little to satisfy the Craig family, or a growing number of black community and religious leaders.

They made up the majority of 100 people that packed into Christ Church Assembly of God Thursday.

All but one question directed toward Fitzgerald, Mayor Betsy Price, and other elected officials dealt with the video and race.

The chief demonstrated what he says happened between the man and the boy, with the man placing his hand on the back of the boy's neck after the child allegedly littered.

But some questioned why the man still wasn't arrested, or why the cop still has a job.

"What it was is assault. This cop assaulted this lady in the street," said one man who signed up to speak.

Others voiced concern that the chief has directed Martin to return to the same patrol area after his suspension is served. 

Fitzgerald, the city's first black chief, fought back against that thinking by emphasizing he needs every Fort Worth cop to be able to conduct their jobs in different settings.

"We do give implicit bias training. We do have procedural justice training. Every officer in this department has to go through that training," said Fitzgerald. "We've had some robust conversations [...] I didn't grow up in some kind of bubble. I grew up in west Philadelphia."

He added that officers were undergoing additional training now, and that the recommendation had been for Martin to receive a five day suspension but he increased it to ten.

As the meeting wrapped up, the Craig family and some others stormed out, with mother Jacqueline Craig yelling that the meeting was "jacked up."

Rod Smith, a family spokesman, said they were furious that in the mayor's closing remarks, she said it was important to not just have a "b**** session." 

"This should've been a session where we heal the community. This should've been a session of healing" said Smith.

The mayor later emphasized she was attempting to explain the need to be constructive and avoid a shouting type-match.

"I was trying to say it in the context of I don't want this to be just that. I want it to be constructive dialogue," said Price.

After the meeting, she and Fitzgerald stayed to talk one-on-one with a number of community members. Some thanked the pair for listening to their concerns in such a heated and public setting.

The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office continues to review the larger case, and should present it to a grand jury shortly.

It's possible that charges against the Craig family could be dropped at that point. It's also possible criminal charges against the officer, and even the neighbor, could be filed.

The chief said after that, 911 audio and police body camera footage from the incident would be released. 

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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