Texas police on Thursday dropped resisting arrest and other charges leveled against a mother and two daughters, ages 19 and 15, the same day leaked bodycam footage of the incident surfaced. The video shows a Fort Worth police officer manhandling the children, questioning the mother's parenting skills, and not taking any action against a man the mother accused of assaulting her seven-year-old son.
The video, leaked to the Associated Press by the family's attorney who declined to say where he got it, shows Officer William Martin responding to mother Jacqueline Craig's call to police. The woman had accused her neighbor, Itamar Vardi, of assaulting her son because he threw some trash on the ground by his residence.
The officer, according to the video, grills the mother on her parenting skills, and she erupts in anger. That set the stage for the officer to pull a Taser, order her and others in the area to the ground, and to use force to quell the situation. The development is the latest example of how the publication of body cam footage or cell phone video is altering the criminal justice system at a time when more and more police agencies are deploying these video recorders.
"I just recorded everything."
In the video, the mother is seen telling the officer that her son was choked by her neighbor for littering.
"Why don't you teach your son not to litter?" the officer is overheard saying on the video.
Moments later, the mother says that even if her son did litter, "It doesn't give him the right to put his hands on him."
"Why not?" the officer responds.
Hell breaks out shortly thereafter. "Get on the ground. Get on the ground," the officer is overheard yelling.
A few minutes later, one of the mother's daughters is overheard screaming: "I just recorded everything. I just recorded everything."
"Me too," the officer responded.
Next, the officer grabs the girl, seizes her phone, and says, "you're going to jail, too," before arresting her. All the while, another girl is also filming the incident, according to the video. That girl tells the officer she is filming, and the officer responds: "Me too, except mine's in HD."
The December incident, which was captured by an untold number of mobile phones, went viral on Facebook. The video released Thursday shows more details and contains more audio than the footage taken at the scene with mobile phones. The bodycam video shows the fracas from the officer's point of view.
"The Police Department recognizes we must work to repair the fractured relationships to our community," the agency said in a press release. “We are committed to ensuring all Fort Worth police officers live up to restoring the trust you have lost in our department."
The officer is back on the job after a 10-day suspension, which he is appealing. The neighbor, whom the mother accused of roughing up her son, is expected to be charged with a misdemeanor assault count, according to local media.
The bodycam video also shows Officer Martin pulling up one of the daughter's handcuffed arms from behind, pushing another girl near his police vehicle, and forcing the 15-year-old daughter into a police car with his foot.