FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – He was suspended for 10 days after a controversial arrest, now a Fort Worth police officer is defending his actions and appealing an unpaid suspension. Officer William Martin took the stand today to testify at that suspension appeal.
Martin was suspended after video of the arrest of an African-American mother and her children went viral. The video, recorded just before Christmas 2016, sparked outrage and fueled accusations of brutality and racism. The video shows Jacqueline Craig and her daughter being arrested.
Initially, a man had called police to report that he had been threatened. Craig also called, reporting that her neighbor had choked her 7-year-old son after accusing him of littering on his property.
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In the video, Craig explained to Officer Martin what happened. Rather than checking to see if the child was okay, Martin asked Craig why she didn’t teach her son not to litter. She responded by saying whether her child did or not litter, the man had no right to choke him.
The video showed Martin taking Craig to the ground, handcuffing her and pointing what appeared to be a taser at her 19-year old daughter, Brea Hymond.
While on the stand today, Martin was asked why he didn’t take the choking allegation seriously. He responded saying he didn’t believe the boy was choked and that if the child had been hurt the family would have sent an ambulance. Martin also said he had “more evidence of littering.”
Martin testified that Craig was the aggressor and was the person who escalated the encounter, but made an admission about their first interaction. When an attorney asked, “Your first question to her was — Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” Martin responded, “I regret my choice of words. I shouldn’t have asked her that. I shouldn’t have said it.”
Some people viewed Martin’s suspension as a ‘slap on the wrist’ type punishment for what they believe was a racially motivated response.
The recommended suspension for Martin was five days, but Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald doubled it. Speaking about the recommendation the Chief said, “That does not stop me from looking at the actions that I believe were not consistent with what our department stands for and I believe 99-percent of our police department would not engage in activity like that.”
Craig and Hymond were taken into custody for Resisting Arrest and Disorderly Conduct, but the charges were eventually dropped.
Chief Fitzgerald said Martin used too much force during the arrests and during testimony at the appeal hearing Tuesday said he should have suspended the officer for an even longer period of time.
Part of the focus during today’s hearing was on the moment when Martin put his hand on Craig’s daughter — the main reason for his 10-day suspension. Martin claimed that he did not push the teenager in the neck and had actually pushed her chest. While looking at the video, attorneys arguing for his suspension said, “your hand is clearly up under her chin.” Martin said he disagreed.
Martin’s attorney, Terry Daffron, said, “He’s never had his opportunity to come out and tell his side of the story. I think what we’ve seen thus far is a very one-sided view from the City.”
An independent arbitrator will decide whether to uphold, reduce or overturn Martin’s suspension.