FWPD chief: ‘I can’t say I made the best initial decision’ after viral arrest video
On Tuesday the city of Baltimore released a transcript of its interviews with Fort Worth leaders and community members during its vetting process of police chief Joel Fitzgerald, who is a candidate to become Baltimore’s police commissioner.
A discussion between four Baltimore’s City Council members and Fort Worth residents, including Jacqueline Craig, brought up a number of cases during Fitzgerald’s tenure, which started in October 2015.
Here is more information about the mentioned cases:
The handling of the Jacqueline Craig and Officer William Martin case: On Dec. 21, 2016, Fort Worth officer William Martin was accused of using excessive force and when arresting resident Craig and her two daughters after Craig called the police over a dispute with a neighbor. The video of the interaction went viral. Fitzgerald suspended Martin for 10 days without pay, prompting public outcry that called for his firing. After the suspension ended, Martin returned to patrolling the same neighborhood.
Fitzgerald defended that decision to concerned residents in January 2017 saying “We don’t hide people — we make them accountable. My decision to put Officer Martin back in that community gives the officer a chance to redeem himself.”
Fort Worth police detain armed men outside home of Jacqueline Craig: One month after Craig’s arrest, three black men armed with assault rifles were detained and then released outside of her home. None of the men detained threatened or pointed their guns at anyone, according to NBCDFW.com. Although Craig did not specifically request it, according to KDFW, Channel 4, the group was acting as neighborhood patrol, which alarmed neighbors who then called the police.
A representative from the Craig family, Roderick Smith, told KDFW that it likely had to do with Martin’s return to patrol in the neighborhood.’
“I didn’t find anything alarming myself. I didn’t find anything out of the norm. Police officers have guns, but they don’t protect,” Smith said. “[Craig] said it meant a lot to have complete strangers come and try to protect her, when the individuals that she pays, which is the Fort Worth Police Department, failed to do so.”
The handling of the Courtney Johnson and Craigory Adams case: In June 2015, officer Courtney Johnson shot Craigory Adams, a 56-year-old black man with bipolar disorder, who was outside of his home holding a barbecue fork.
Fitzgerald fired Johnson, but the firing was reduced to a 65-day suspension and he was given an honorable discharge, which would allow him to retain his peace officer’s license and potentially get a job as an officer elsewhere. Johnson was also set to receive back pay.
After Johnson was indicted in 2016, Fitzgerald said the incident had nothing to do with race and that there was no evidence that Johnson used a racial slur.
“Let’s be clear, we believe that race played no factor in this incident,” Fitzgerald said. “This is, in our opinion, an unintentional shooting but a shooting nonetheless that our officer will have to deal with in a court of law.”
In 2017, Adams testified that he clearly heard Johnson yell the n-word at him.
Demoted Fort Worth police officials sue city, allege chief was hostile: In November 2017, Capt. Abdul Pridgen, a former assistant chief, and Capt. Vance Keyes, a former deputy chief, sued the city of Fort Worth, seeking reinstatement to their former positions and recovery of lost wages. They were accused of leaking bodycam video of Craig’s arrest and alleged Fitzgerald “expressed hostility” toward them for reporting that Martin used excessive force in the arrest. Pridgen was named police chief in a Seaside, Calif., in December 2017.
Video shows indicted Fort Worth officer punch, kick black man at hospital: In November 2016, off-duty officer Jon Preston Romer Jr. put 21-year-old Henry Newson in a headlock and took him to the ground while Romer was working security at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Then Romer and two other men, named in a lawsuit as hospital security guards Jeremy Flores and Jonathan Walterbach, appear to pile on top of Newson and punch, kick and handcuff him.
Newson, who according to his lawsuit had just spent two days in the hospital for an illness and was waiting for a ride home, was charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespass, but those charges were dismissed in March 2017 at prosecutorial discretion. In March 2018, Romer was indicted on charges of official oppression, aggravated perjury and making a false report to a police officer in connection with the incident.
Leaders in the black community asked why Romer had not been fired given his history. In 2011, Romer fatally shot a black man, 32-year-old handicapped father Charal “Ra Ra” Thomas, during a traffic stop in east Fort Worth. Thomas did not follow police orders to exit his vehicle and drove off with Romer’s arm trapped in a window. Thomas continued to drive, dragging Romer along until Romer pulled himself onto a running board and fatally shot him in front of an adult passenger and three of Thomas’ children.