Fort Worth

Police chief: Fort Worth officer acted ‘rude’ but not racist in viral video

Fort Worth officials said Friday that they were disturbed and outraged at the video of a police officer arresting a woman and her two daughters after she called to report the assault of her son.

A video of Wednesday’s incident showing the officer, who is white, arresting the women, who are black, was posted on Facebook, setting off a flurry of claims of racism against the officer and spurring a protest in downtown Fort Worth.

Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, speaking at a news conference at City Hall on Friday afternoon, acknowledged that the officer acted rude but said, “I can’t call [the incident] racism.

“What I can say is that I noticed in the video that the officer was rude,” Fitzgerald said. “And there is a difference between rude and racist.”

Mayor Betsy Price said “we do have concerns about some of the actions seen on the video,” explaining that it is being fully investigated by police. She described it as an “isolated incident” and thanked Fort Worth’s residents for remaining calm.

Fitzgerald said the Fort Worth community has been tremendous since Wednesday’s incident, including “even the people who protested.”

Fitzgerald said several of the protesters he has spoken to “have every confidence in the world that we will handle this properly.”

Also attending the news conference were U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks, state Rep. Nicole Collier, Fort Worth Councilwomen Kelly Allen Gray, Gyna Bivens and Ann Zadeh, and Councilmen Jungus Jordan and Dennis Shingleton.

“I was very disturbed by what I saw on the video,” Veasey said. “Just from I saw on the video, it appeared to me that the police officer there escalated the situation and was kind of being rude and condescending to the taxpayer and citizen that called police to the scene.”

Collier agreed, saying, “I was outraged by what I saw on the video.

“Instead of actually trying to calm the situation,” Collier said, “this police officer engaged in behavior that was not in line with the standard of conduct with the Fort Worth Police Department.”

Investigation ongoing

The arrested mother, Jacqueline Craig, called police Wednesday afternoon to report that a man had assaulted her son for littering, according to the woman’s relatives. Relatives that a 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 two women and a 15-year-old girl, believed to be Craig’s daughter.

The officer has not been identified.

The video shows the officer talking to both the man accused of assaulting Craig’s son and then to Craig. Craig tells 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.

Investigating the possible assault of the child should have been the officer’s priority when he arrived at the scene, Fitzgerald said Friday. She added that “99.9 percent of our officers” would have handled the situation differently.

Police continued to investigate the assault accusation Friday, interviewing witnesses in the boy’s neighborhood, Fitzgerald said.

On Friday, a Fort Worth detective with the Crimes Against Children unit left his business card in the door of the home where the man accused of assault lives.

Neighbors in the area said the detective came to their homes early Friday to ask questions.

Body cam won’t be released

The video of the incident, shot by Craig’s cousin, Porsha Craver, received more than 2.5 million views on Facebook.

Police spokesman Marc Povero said Friday that the Facebook video started about two minutes after the officer arrived. Two officers had been dispatched on the call, per department policy, but the one officer arrived quicker and was the only one on the scene during the incident.

The officer’s body camera was active from the time he arrived, Povero said.

Fitzgerald said the body camera footage will not be released to the public because a juvenile was involved. The Texas attorney general’s office would have to rule otherwise.

“As much as the public would like to see every nook and cranny of what we have, it’s sometimes impossible to do so without respecting the rights of others,” Fitzgerald said.

Fort Worth police said Craig was arrested for outstanding traffic tickets in addition to resisting arrest.

Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the Craig family, and others have asked that the charges against those arrested be dropped and the officer fired.

Merritt told The Associated Press on Friday that Craig is not currently considering a federal civil-rights lawsuit but that Fort Worth police should have to prove that the officer’s actions weren’t racially motivated.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram