Fort Worth

Two top Fort Worth police chiefs temporarily relieved of command

Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen, left, and Deputy Chief Vance Keyes, have been placed on detached duty.
Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen, left, and Deputy Chief Vance Keyes, have been placed on detached duty. Star-Telegram archives

Two high-ranking police administrators have been temporarily relieved of their command as part of the investigation into the leaked body camera video and personnel records of a Fort Worth officer at the center of a controversial arrest, a source inside the police department confirmed Friday.

Pete Schulte, the attorney for Assistant Police Chief Abdul Pridgen, one of the officers who has been placed on detached duty, described the investigation as “a vicious and unwarranted” attack on his client.

Sources have told the Star-Telegram that the other officer is Deputy Chief Vance Keyes.

Rumors have been circulating for weeks that the two may have been involved in the leak, but the department has said the investigation is ongoing and has not released any provisional findings.

The video in question is that of Officer William Martin, whose questionable behavior and his arrests of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters on Dec. 21 has led to widespread criticism of Martin and the Fort Worth Police Department. Martin is white and the women arrested are black.

Schulte, released a statement Friday evening on Twitter, saying that “Chief Pridgen did not release this video and has no information on who might have released the video.”

Police declined to comment Friday night.

In an “update” sent to police department personnel on Feb. 27, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald wrote that he is committed to a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the matter and that Internal Affairs and the Special Investigations units, who are conducting concurrent investigations, have his full support.

“The very nature of internal investigations prohibits premature divulgence of information that, while possibly clarifying misinformation in the rumor mill, might jeopardize the hard work that our investigators are performing,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Rest assured that when the time comes, as many details concerning this matter (as legally permissible) will be made available.”

‘Disturbing and unfortunate’

Police and city leaders have previously said the release of both the video and Martin’s personnel file were illegal.

“We will prosecute to the fullest extent whoever was responsible for leaking this video,” Fitzgerald said during a Jan. 27 news conference alongside Mayor Betsy Price.

Schulte said that several other people, “including from the Fort Worth City Attorney’s Office, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, and other members of the police department had copies of this video at the time the video was allegedly released.”

The attorney said it’s “disturbing and unfortunate that the police department is focusing its investigation on two high-ranking African American Officers.”

Pridgen joined the department in December 1992 and was assistant chief over the finance and personnel bureau. He was previously one of six finalist for the Fort Worth police chief position and, later, a finalist for the Corpus Christi police chief job.

Keyes joined the police department in 2000 and was over operational command, which included the training division, professional standards and the communications division and quality assurance.

Details of Martin’s personnel file were publicized on Facebook by Shaun King, an activist who writes for the New York Daily News. King was in Fort Worth earlier this week, speaking at a church in the Como neighborhood and later at TCU, and called the incident “absurd.”

Lee Merritt, one of Craig’s attorneys, provided the documents and body cam video to the Associated Press. He said at the time he received the footage from a trusted source.

‘Bullying and intimidation’

The body cam video provided a new angle of the disturbance call that led to the arrests of Craig and two of her daughters.

Itamar Vardi, a neighbor of Craig’s, had called 911 first, reporting that someone had littered in his yard and that a group of people were now refusing to leave. One of Craig’s daughters, and then Craig, call 911 a short time later, accusing Vardi of grabbing and choking Craig’s 7-year-old son.

Martin was suspended for 10 days after an internal investigation found he had used excessive force and was disrespectful. He has appealed.

Charges against Craig and her daughters were eventually dropped while Vardi was cited for assault by contact, a Class C misdemeanor. He has pleaded not guilty.

In a meeting with Fitzgerald, Martin acknowledged that he “asked a stupid question” during the police call and had other regrets about his handling of the incident, according to audio of that meeting obtained by the Star-Telegram.

Pridgen and Keyes had recently come under criticism by the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, who alleged that pair had ordered subordinates to break the rules to allow four unqualified police officer to join the department through a special recruiting program.

The association alleged the pair then retaliated against a lieutenant and sergeant who raised concerns about the unqualified applicants and possible police contract violations. Later, the association accused Fitzgerald of “bullying and intimidation tactics.”

Staff writer Ryan Osborne contributed to this article, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd

Bodycam footage and cell phone video show the controversial arrest of a Fort Worth mother and her daughters after she called police to deal with a neighbor who had allegedly put his hands around her 7-year-old son's neck. Officer William Martin wa