Fort Worth community activists are calling for the ousting of Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald for demoting two assistant chiefs to captains. Former Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen and former Deputy Chief Vance Keys are accused of leaking body cam footage of an unlawful arrest conducted by officer William Martin, a White man.
The arrest took place on December 21, 2016 after Jacqueline Craig called 911 because her neighbor choked her 7-year old son supposedly for littering. Officer Martin insulted Craig by asking her why she didn't teach her son not to litter. The discussion escalated and one of Craig's daughters stepped in to urge her mother to just walk away.
That's when Martin forced Craig and her 15-year old daughter down to the ground, roughed them up, and hit them with his taser while another of Craig's daughters recorded the events on a live video feed. Martin then arrested all three ladies and went on to lie about what actually happened in his official report.
Chief Fitzgerald only gave Martin a 10-day unpaid suspension. But somebody decided that Martin was getting off too easy and leaked the official body cam footage as well as Martin's disciplinary file. The department claims that those files were downloaded from Pridgen's computer. All of the video footage went viral revealing the truth of what actually took place.
Chief Fitzgerald claims to have agonized over his decision--one that was solely his to make. "This has been one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make as chief," he said at a press conference. He claims that Pridgen and Keyes were "two men I trusted, called colleagues and called friends." With a friend like Fitzgerald, who needs enemies? He is even going to recommend that Pridgen be even further demoted to sergeant.
Insisting on their innocence, neither of these men is going down without a fight. Pridgen has vowed that justice will be his in the end. "I'm pretty sure they can expect a lawsuit," he said. And the community has come together in support of Vance Keyes as well. At a press conference, Keyes offered evidence of his innocence and a motive for Chief Fitzgerald's actions.
"Chief Fitzgerald is more concerned with political capital and upward mobility than with the welfare of the community," he said. "I must respect his position, but I no longer respect his judgment...I'm not some backdoor-dealing, double-talking, side-stepping political puppet. I am a career public servant."
Keyes called the allegations against him "pure nonsense" and expects further backlash from the city for speaking out, but he will press on to clear his name. The division that exists between the Fort Worth Police Department and the Black community just got even wider. Expect this fight to get worse before it gets better.