FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A white Texas police officer said Wednesday that he regrets asking a mother why she didn’t teach her son not to litter during the December arrest of the black woman and her two teenage daughters.
Fort Worth police officer William Martin spoke publicly about the incident for the first time during testimony Wednesday in his Civil Service Commission appeal of a 10-day suspension for excessive force. Martin, who has already served the suspension, defended his physical actions, including use of force against one of the teenager daughters and another juvenile, who was not identified.
The incident was viewed more than a million times after a cellphone video of the arrests filmed by one of Craig’s daughters was posted on Facebook and raised accusations of racism.
Police had originally responded to the scene after both Craig and one of her neighbors called police. Craig has alleged the neighbor grabbed and choked her young son after seeing him litter.
Martin is seen briefly talking to the neighbor, who was later charged with a misdemeanor assault, before engaging with Craig. He asks her why she did not teach her son not to litter. Craig responds that littering should not give the neighbor the right to “lay hands” on her son. Martin fires back, “Why not?”
In his testimony Wednesday, Martin said he regretted the verbal interaction with Craig and owed her family an apology. He defended his actions during the arrest, however, by saying that Craig appeared to be hostile.
Martin is seen in the video wrestling Jacqueline Craig and one of her daughters to the ground before pointing a stun gun at them. He places the two under arrest, and later arrests another daughter, who had filmed the incident. Charges against all three were later dropped.
Martin said he was appealing the suspension because of the determination that he had used excessive use of force in the arrest.
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said Martin’s body camera footage showed he had put his hand near the neck of an unnamed juvenile to push her away from the arrest scene. It also showed him raising the handcuffed arms of one of Craig’s daughters over her head from behind after she wouldn’t answer a question.
Martin said he had pushed the younger girl in the chest not the neck, and defended the disabling maneuver on Craig’s daughter, saying she was yelling and pulling away. He also said she could have turned around and spit on him.
“It’s not a good feeling (being spit on). I decided it wasn’t going to happen again,” Martin told the hearing officer, according to The Fort-Worth Star Telegram.
Craig also testified at the hearing Wednesday. She told the officers that she didn’t believe her neighbor, who is white, was racist, but she did believe Martin’s actions were based on race.
“A dog would get more respect,” she said.
The hearing is scheduled to continue through Friday. The hearing officer could uphold the suspension, overturn it or alter it.