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Lawyer: Texas police must show controversial arrest not racially motivated

Texas officer wrestling woman
Protests over video of Texas officer wrestling woman 02:52

DALLAS -- The lawyer for a black woman who’s seen on video being wrestled to the ground and arrested by a white officer said Friday the burden is on police to prove the officer’s actions weren’t racially motivated.

Attorney S. Lee Merritt said police in Fort Worth and elsewhere in the country have shown “discriminatory behavior” toward minorities. He told The Associated Press that his client, Jacqueline Craig, wants to see the Fort Worth officer fired and other actions taken by authorities, Merritt said.

“Everything that was done that day was done incorrectly,” he said.

The officer, whose name hasn’t been released, responded to a call for service after Craig argued with a man who she said had physically confronted her 7-year-old son for littering. In the cellphone video of Wednesday’s incident, Craig can be heard telling the officer that the man had “grabbed and choked” her son.

The officer engages Craig in a conversation that quickly escalates. He asks why she hadn’t taught her son not to litter. Craig says that regardless of whether the boy littered, the man did not have the right to “put his hands on him.” The officer says, “Why not?”

One of Craig’s daughters tries to push her mother away, but the officer forces Craig and the teen to the ground. He points a stun gun into Craig’s back and then at her daughter when she tries to approach. Craig, her daughter and a second daughter who intervened were arrested on charges that include disorderly conduct. All three are now out of jail and back home.

Video of the confrontation posted to Facebook has been viewed more than 2.5 million times.

The officer allowed the situation to escalate, Merritt said, and did not file a report on Craig’s claim that her neighbor accosted her son.

Screengrab of a Facebook video showing Jacqueline Craig’s arrest in Fort Worth CBS DFW

“We don’t see this kind of action taken against citizens who are not black or who aren’t brown,” he said.

The officer was placed on restricted duty Thursday. Later that day, about 100 protesters gathered at a courthouse, holding signs that read, “Moms Stick Together,” ‘’Racism Is a Sin,” and “Am I Next?”

Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald and other city officials at a news conference Friday expressed concern with the officer’s actions and asked the community to remain calm.

“I can’t call it racism but I noticed in the video that the officer was rude,” said Fitzgerald, who is black. “There’s a difference between rude and racism.”

Fitzgerald said the video “disturbed” him but that investigators need time to review the matter and submit their findings.

“I can tell you I was disappointed with the video,” Fitzgerald said. “I was disappointed in some of the things I heard and saw.”

Fitzgerald said the officer’s focus should have been on the alleged assault of the boy, and that “99.9 percent” of his officers would have handled the situation differently.

Texas Rep. Nicole Collier said she was “outraged” by what she saw on the video, reports CBS DFW.

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

Attorney Terry Daffron, who represents the officer as counsel for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, said people shouldn’t jump to conclusions based solely on the video, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

“As has become the norm in our society, the video does not show the entire interaction between the officer and the individuals on the scene,” Daffron said in a statement to the newspaper. “It is shameful that there is an immediate rush to judgment that my client is a racist cop simply because of the color of his skin ... I am confident that when all of the facts, evidence, and information come to light, it will present a different account of the events.”

Police said in an earlier statement that they have reviewed the officer’s body camera footage, but will not be releasing it or many other details because state law regarding internal investigations doesn’t allow them to do so, particularly investigations that involve minors.

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