Fort Worth PD Drops Charges Against Black Family and Officer Following Violent Arrest

By Sameer Rao Jan 27, 2017

The Fort Worth Police Department announced yesterday (January 26) that it would drop charges against a Black woman and her daughter stemming from a violent arrest caught on video last month. 

"We have consulted with the District Attorney’s office and we have decided to withdraw the charges against Ms. Jacqueline Craig and Ms. Brea Hymond," reads the department statement tweeted above. Officer William Martin, who is White, received a 10-day suspension following his arrest of Craig and her daughters, 19-year-old Hymond and 15-year-old Jacques Craig. The statement says that Martin plans to appeal his suspension. The statement also says that the department issued Itamar Vardi—the neighbor who allegedly choked Craig’s son, prompting the call to the police—"a citation for assault by contact as a result of his actions in the initial incident." According to The Associated Press, the Craig family’s attorneys confirmed at a press conference yesterday that the department had previously dropped charges against Jacques.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported earlier this month that Craig’s niece Porsha Craver posted a six-minute version of Hymond’s cell phone video of the arrest to Facebook on December 21, the same day it was taken. YouTube user Black Power Prince, whose connection to the family is unclear, published a full 29-minute video on December 23.

Both videos show Martin speaking to Vardi (identified by the Star-Telegram as White) before approaching Craig, who then explains the situation. Their interaction grows intense when Martin asks,"Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?" Jacques, 15, tries to step between her mother and Martin before the officer pushes her away, throws Jacqueline to the ground and points a stun gun at Jacques and other bystanders. Martin then cuffs Jaqueline and Jacques, taking them to his squad car before arresting Hymond. The Star-Telegram reported that Jacqueline and Hymond were charged with "interference with public duties, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and failing to provide identification"—all of which have since been dropped.

The department’s announcement came one day after family attorney S. Lee Merritt leaked arrest footage from Martin’s body camera to The Root. That video, posted above, captured key details that Hymond’s cell phone footage did not: Martin twisting Hymond’s handcuffed arms over her head to get her to answer a question and kicking Jacques’ legs into his cruiser. The Root also cited other documents provided by Merritt, including a 2013 use-of-force report showing Martin deployed a stun gun on two Black male high school students. Martin attempted to justify his actions at the time, saying that he was at a "tactical disadvantage, as [he] was winded from running and jumping fences" while chasing the students. But Captain Edwin Kraus wrote in the use-of-force report that "just being at a ‘tactical disadvantage’ does not appear to authorize Taser use in this circumstance," citing Martin’s proximity to the suspects and no evidence that they were armed. These leaked documents were not mentioned in the department’s statement yesterday.

"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," Fort Worth police chief Joel Fitzgerald told WFAA-TV

But Craig family attorneys Merritt and Jasmine Crockett criticized the department’s response at a press conference captured in part on video by The Dallas Morning News yesterday. Crockett called the citation Vardi received "what you get for speeding down the highway" and argued that he should have been charged with a felony. Merritt also criticized Martin’s punishment as an example of "colored people justice" and echoed his previous calls for the officer’s termination.