Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed Thursday against the man accused of assaulting a 7-year-old boy, an incident that led to the controversial arrests of his mother and her two daughters that was caught on video, authorities said.
Police also said that charges pending before a Tarrant County grand jury against the boy’s mother and her daughter — and those involving the officer — will be pulled, according to a news release.
The case involving Officer William Martin, who is accused of using excessive force, will continue to be handled administratively, said Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald.
Martin, who is back at work after a 10-day suspension, has appealed the disciplinary action taken against him.
Fitzgerald said Martin will not be returning to the Rock Garden neighborhood in southwest Fort Worth where the incident occurred on Dec. 21.
“We have consulted with the district attorney’s office and we have decided to withdraw all matters related to the arrest” of the boy’s mother, Jacqueline Craig, 46, her daughter, Brea Hymond, 19, according to a news release.
Itamar Vardi, the neighbor will be charged with assault by contact “as a result of his actions in the initial incident,” the release said.
The charge is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a $500 fine. The case will be handled in municipal court.
“The Police Department recognizes we must work to repair the fractured relationships to our community,” the release said. “We are committed to ensuring all Fort Worth police officers live up to restoring the trust you have lost in the our department.”
The city’s news release comes on the same day that Martin’s bodycam video became public after being leaked to Craig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, who provided the video to The Associated Press.
Merritt told the Star-Telegram that he and Craig found out charges would be dropped against her Wednesday night.
“We want to know why it took so long to drop charges that were erroneous in the first place,” Merritt said after Thursday’s police announcement. “We’re not particularly happy about it.”
Merritt said Craig would address the police department’s decision to drop charges at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
‘Most appropriate avenue’
Craig and two of her daughters, Hymond and 15-year-old Jaques Craig, were arrested by Martin on the afternoon Dec. 21 month after she called 911 to report that her 7-year-old son had been choked by the neighbor.
Craig’s arrest was captured on cellphone video and posted to Facebook, where it viral. It showed the officer pointing a Taser and wrestling the woman and one of her daughters to the ground and handcuffing them.
The video began shortly after Martin arrived and showed the situation escalating quickly. The bodycam video that became public on Thursday contains much of the same detail, only with more audio, including the heated exchange between Martin and Craig.
Mayor Betsy Price said the handling the case in municipal court is the “most appropriate avenue” and that she’s committed to restoring and healing any breach of trust in the community.
“ We continue to support the work of our excellent Fort Worth officers, who are tasked with so much in their roles to serve and protect our citizens,” Price said. “We know that healing takes time and compassionate efforts. But, as we learn from this incident, I trust that our community will grow to be even stronger.”
“The Fort Worth Police Department has worked to build a strong national reputation as a leader in community policing, service, passion and professionalism. We regard ourselves as a procedurally just organization and will better demonstrate its tenants, both internally and externally,” the release said.
‘This case cries for justice’
The move to not charge the Craigs comes two days after Merritt and a handful of others pleaded with the City Council late Tuesday night to step in and fire the officer. The also asked the case pending against the women be dropped. Their request came at the end of the meeting, during the public comment portion of the agenda.
Craig, her daughters and host of other supporters were at the meeting but did not speak. Merritt, who was allowed to speak despite not following proper procedure to do so, said Craig’s supporters have “made common sense demands to clear the injustice.” He said suggested a lawsuit may be filed against the city in the case.
Merritt attempted to use the forum to criticize Fitzgerald and “insulting” statements he made following the incident, but was cautioned at least three times by Mayor Betsy Price to address the council and not the chief.
“That police department works for you,” Merritt said. “Your department failed to do its basic job.”
Dominique Alexander, a minister, activist and founder of the Next Generation Action Network, a Grand Prairie-based social justice organization, said the officer “devalued” the lives of Craig and her daughters. And not addressing the issue was fueling anger in the African-American community.
“I don’t think these women could ever pose a threat to the officer,” Alexander said. “The council needs “to get rid of this officer. We’re not going to sugarcoat anything. Jacqueline Craig was slammed [to the ground]. Her daughter was slammed [to the ground]. It’s not just an isolated incident.”
Alexander has organized various police protests recently, including the rally in Dallas on July 7 when a lone gunman, Micah Johnson, ambushed officers, killing five.
At the council meeting Tuesday, Rev. Sharon Mason Ford-Turner of Fort Worth also spoke, saying the African-American community is treated unjustly.
“We feel like we are not considered as citizens,” she told the council. “When we call for help and we don’t receive it, we’re disrespected and then arrested. The time has come for us to stand again.”
Arlington resident Virginia Thornton called the officer’s actions “unequivocally abusive and incompetent. He should have been released from the department. This case cries for justice. You have the power to do good. A remedy is not out of reach.”
In videos, Craig can be heard telling the neighbor that he should have alerted her if he believed her son had littered and that he didn’t have the right to put his hands on her son.
After arriving at the scene and talking to Craig — which was being videoed by Hymond — Martin asked Craig, "Why don't you teach your son not to litter?"
Craig replied that it doesn't matter if her son littered or not, that it doesn't give “him the right to put his hands on him.”
Martin replied: “Why not?”
Craig got more upset after the comment and began yelling at Martin.
The bodycam video shows Martin asking Craig, “Why are you yelling at me?”
She replies, “Because you pissed me off.”
The situation quickly escalated, with Craig's 15-year-daughter stepping in between the Martin and Craig as profanities were being screamed by the women at the scene. Martin then pulled and pointed his Taser at Craig and Jacques Craig before wrestling them to the ground.
Craig and Hymond were arrested and taken to jail and the younger daughter to a juvenile detention center.
Before the charges were dropped Thursday, Craig and her older daughter faced charges of interference with public duties, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and failing to provide identification, police said. The 15-year-old daughter was detained and later released.
Fitzgerald later called Martin’s actions “rude,” but not racist.
This story contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.