Fort Worth

In Fort Worth police incident that went viral, ‘racism is still all over it’

In what some are calling a racist incident, a white Fort Worth police officer arrested a black woman and her two teenage daughters Wednesday after the woman called police to ask for help. The incident was captured on a cellphone video that has gone viral that shows the officer pointing a Taser and wrestling the woman and one of her daughters to the ground and handcuffing them.

Jacqueline Craig called police Wednesday afternoon to report that a man had assaulted her 7-year-old son for littering. Relatives said that the man in their southwest Fort Worth neighborhood had grabbed the boy by the neck in an attempt to get him to pick up the trash.

After a police officer arrived at the scene in the 7400 block of Rock Garden Trail the situation quickly escalated, with women screaming profanities at the officer, who eventually handcuffed and arrested Craig and two daughters, Brea Hymond, 19, and Jacques Craig, 15.

A video of the incident was posted on Facebook has been viewed more than 1.9 million times by 8 p.m. Thursday.

The police officer is white and the women are black. The officer, who has not been identified, was placed on “restricted duty” pending the outcome of an investigation by internal affairs, police said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

About 100 people gathered at the old Tarrant County Courthouse Thursday night to protest the incident, calling for the officer to be fired immediately. They frequently shouted, “No justice! No peace!”

“We know that if that had been a black man grabbing the throat of a white boy,” said Cory Hughes, one of the protest organizers, “he’d be in jail right now.”

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At a news conference earlier Thursday evening, Lee Merritt, an attorney representing the family, said of the incident, “It’s not a situation where someone used a racial slur, but racism is still all over it.”

“If a white mother had called police about their son being choked, I guarantee that the officer would not have bypassed the suspect and arrested the mother,” he said.

Terry Daffron, who represents the officer as counsel for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, cautioned against rushing to judgment based on the video, echoing a similar plea made by Fort Worth police earlier in the day.

“As has become the norm in our society, the video does not show the entire interaction between the officer and the individuals on the scene,” Daffron said in a statement. “It is shameful that there is an immediate rush to judgment that my client is a racist cop simply because of the color of his skin. ... I am confident that when all of the facts, evidence, and information come to light, it will present a different account of the events.”

After Jacqueline Craig was released from jail Thursday afternoon, she held a news conference at her home but declined to comment on specifics about the incident. She said the video was “self-explanatory.”

“I just feel like I didn’t get justice for what I called [police] for,” Craig said. “What I will say is that I was hurt about the whole matter,” she said. “I don’t feel like justice was served.”

The statement from the police said the department “expects every officer to treat persons they encounter with that same trust, respect and courtesy. We acknowledge that the initial appearance of the video may raise serious questions. ... We ask our community for patience and calm during this investigation process.”

The statement said police investigators “worked throughout the night and into the morning” investigating the incident, interviewing witnesses and reviewing video, including the officer’s body camera footage.

The body camera video can not be released until the investigation is completed, the statement said.

Earlier Thursday, police issued a “safety alert” after a threat was posted on Facebook regarding the video.

“On God I say we kill all the white cops in Fort Worth,” the man allegedly posted on Facebook while sharing the video. Police included a mugshot of the man and that he had previously been arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated robbery, unlawfully carrying a weapon and family violence.

“Please use caution if you encounter this individual,” the alert stated.

‘Trying to protect my mom’

The video shows the officer talking to both the man who allegedly assaulted Craig’s son and then Craig. Craig can be heard telling the man 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.

“Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” the officer asks Craig.

“He can’t prove to me that my son littered,” Craig responded. “But it doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t, it doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”

“Why not?” the officer responds.

The exchange immediately grows heated with Craig telling the officer that his question made her angry and the officer replying he would take her to jail if she continued yelling at him.

Craig and other women began shouting at the officer, which was captured on video being shot by Craig’s cousin Porsha Craver. Women crowded around the officer can be heard screaming profanities at the officer and calling him a “pig,” before walking toward him.

A struggle between the officer and Craig ensued and Jacques Craig ran to stand in between the two, according to the video.

“I am 15 years old. How was I supposed to know I wasn’t supposed to interfere?” Jacques Craig told the Star-Telegram on Thursday. “I was just trying to protect my mom.”

The officer pulled his Taser and wrestled Craig to the ground and handcuffed her before pointing his Taser at Jacques Craig, who was lying on street. Jacques Craig was then handcuffed and placed inside a police vehicle. She said she was kicked while trying to get inside the vehicle.

“I didn’t know how to sit in a police car, I’ve never done it before. I was just crying and worried and thinking about how to get out,” she said.

Jacques Craig said she was released from a juvenile detention center about midnight.

Jacqueline Craig, 46, was arrested for resisting arrest and also has outstanding traffic warrants, according to jail records.

Hymond was arrested for resisting arrest and interfering with public duty, according to jail records. Both women were released from the Mansfield Jail on Thursday afternoon.

Just before relatives were getting ready to call police to report the incident involving her son, Craig said she saw that the man was already on the phone with them. He was saying there were a lot of “them here now.”

Mostly immune

While many of the nation’s largest cities have been the focus of Black Lives Matter protests in recent months, mostly because of controversial shootings of black men by police, Fort Worth has been mostly immune to racially charged incidents.

Police have been active in the community, and at a public forum in August, Joel Fitzgerald, Fort Worth’s first black police chief, talked about the importance of building relationships.

“We need to break through now to the next generation of kids out there so they understand we’re here to provide a service to them,” Fitzgerald said.

In a statement, Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said the responding officer “ignored basic community policing standards and his own responsibility to de-escalate the confrontation.”

“This incident and countless others like them demonstrate that for people of color, showing anything less than absolute deference to police officers — regardless of the circumstances — can have unjust and often tragic consequences,” the statement said. “This fundamental injustice is also a threat to public safety. If a black woman in Fort Worth can’t call the cops after her son is allegedly choked by a neighbor without getting arrested, why would she ever call the cops again?”

When Jacqueline Craig was asked Thursday afternoon if the incident has caused her to lose faith in law enforcement, she said: “It hasn’t really, because just like with people, you have some good [officers] and some bad. I just have to teach my kids the way I’ve been teaching them, to not lose faith.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3

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