FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Today the public heard from one of the Fort Worth police officers demoted last week. The move came after an investigation into the leak of a viral bodycam video.
The officers, Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen and Deputy Chief Vance Keyes, both attended the disciplinary hearing on Friday. But this morning Keyes, his attorney and others publicly addressed the punishment handed down by Chief Joel Fitzgerald.
The officers are accused of downloading and leaking body camera video and confidential records on Officer William Martin. The video shows Martin’s controversial arrest of Jacqueline Craig – the Fort Worth mother who called police to report an assault on her son, back in December.
Officer Martin received a suspension for his actions, but Pridgen and Keyes were demoted. As a result of that demotion the two are no longer a part of Chief Fitzgerald’s executive team and both have been busted down to the rank of police captain.
At the press conference this morning Craig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, talked about the punishment for Officer Martin versus the punishment for the FWPD officers. “Martin amassed a series of felonies on that day from assault, to aggravated assault, to perjury, official corruption, false arrest [and] to each of these he received no criminal investigation, no criminal prosecution. He received a 10-day vacation and he was returned to the force with a scheduled promotion,” Merritt said. “It’s a sad day for the city of Fort Worth. The level of blatant racism and unapologetic hypocrisy should no longer be tolerated and so we take this stand together today.”
The first thing said by Former Deputy Chief Keyes when he took the podium was, “My personal situation and that of my colleague, Abdul Pridgen, cannot and should not overshadow the Jacqueline Craig incident.”
Keyes said in addition to misrepresenting and vilifying him and his colleague, the investigation involving Craig and her daughter was lackluster at best. “The police department’s, and ultimately the city’s, mishandling and response to the incident was akin to trying to extinguish a forest fire with a water pistol. Given such response, no one should be surprised that instead of abating the flames have only spread.”
Chief Fitzgerald also suspended Keyes for three days, and recommended that the U.S. Civil Service Commission drop Pridgen down two more ticks – to the rank of sergeant.
An internal investigation found Pridgen and Keyes exchanged text messages about Officer Martin and issues of racial disparity. Speaking about that Keyes said, “That claim is grossly inaccurate and taken out of context. I told investigators on several occasions we discussed the case ad nauseam.”
Keyes said the only text messages he and Pridgen sent back and forth concerned the mistreatment of minorities within the department.
During the press conference Keyes spoke passionately, saying that he is a career public servant and the allegations that he helped leak the body camera footage is pure speculation. “I’m not some back door dealing, double-talking, side-stepping political puppet. I am a career public servant. Leave your opinion [and] your emotion out of it. Look at the facts. Look at the evidence. I challenge anyone, anyone, to intelligently refute what I’ve shared here today.”
Walking out of the disciplinary hearing last week Pridgen, who did not attend the Monday press conference, said, “I’ve done nothing wrong and justice will be served. I will consult with my attorney and I’m pretty sure they can expect a lawsuit.”
Chief Fitzgerald has said the investigation surrounding Craig’s arrest and the actions of the officers are not the same and that he cannot rule out criminal charges being filed against the two men.
Keyes claimed the Chief has ulterior motives. “Fitzgerald is more concerned with political capital and upward mobility than with the welfare of the community,” Keyes told reporters, adding, “I must respect his position but I no longer respect his judgment.”
In regards to the comments and allegations made by Keyes at the press conference Chief Fitzgerald’s office issues a statement that said, in part, –
“In the interest of respecting the officers’ rights to due process in this investigation, we are unable to discuss the particular facts in the case.”
As for his future with the Fort Worth Police Department and in what capacity he’ll work after his suspension Keyes said, “I have not been given my assignment. I have no access to my city email. I do not have my city phone. I have no idea where I will be assigned, but I am unconcerned. Wherever I go I will do my job and I will do it well as I always have.”