Fort Worth officer fired for shooting man who held barbecue fork

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – Fort Worth police officer Courtney Johnson — whose charge of aggravated assault by a public servant for shooting a man who was holding a barbecue fork was dismissed last month after a mistrial — has been fired, police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said Tuesday.

Johnson, 35, was accused of shooting Craigory Adams by recklessly handling his shotgun on June 23, 2015.

“We found that these actions were careless and that led to an individual being injured and that’s something we can’t let happen,” Fitzgerald said.

A two-count indictment accused Johnson of taking his gun off safety and sliding the pump action back, then forward as it was pointed toward Adams. The shotgun fired, hitting Adams in the arm. The officer has said he thought Adams was holding a knife, but it was actually a barbecue fork.

In Johnson’s trial, the jury split 5-7, but it was not known which way the majority voted.

Johnson testified that based on information from the 911 call taker, he thought Adams was holding a knife. Johnson’s attorneys, Tim Choy and Jim Lane, maintained that the shooting was accidental but acknowledged that the case may have been difficult for jurors to understand.

“After review of the trial case, and the evidence produced at that trial, it is my belief that any subsequent retrial is unlikely to result in the return of a unanimous jury verdict,” a motion filed by District Attorney Sharen Wilson stated.

Adams, a mentally challenged man who was living with his parents, was outside holding a barbecue fork when he knocked on a neighbor’s door and the neighbor called police.

Johnson failed to identify himself as a police officer when he approached Johnson, said Tamala Ray, a Tarrant County prosecutor. Johnson drove up to the location of the call without his lights and sirens activated and gave Adams several commands, Ray said.

Adams dropped the barbecue fork and dropped to one knee, Ray said in her opening statement at trial.

“At the end of the day, my decision is about safety, security, and community confidence in our officers,” said Fitzgerald in a news release. “Johnson made the wrong decision, and he could have killed Craigory Adams.  It’s important to note that Mr. Adams had knelt and dropped the barbecue fork he was holding, and was compliant at the time he was wounded.”


FWPD Officer Speaks About Demotion After Leaked Video

UPDATED | May 22, 2017 11:31 AM

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Today the public heard from one of the Fort Worth police officers demoted last week. The move came after an investigation into the leak of a viral bodycam video.

The officers, Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen and Deputy Chief Vance Keyes, both attended the disciplinary hearing on Friday. But this morning Keyes, his attorney and others publicly addressed the punishment handed down by Chief Joel Fitzgerald.

The officers are accused of downloading and leaking body camera video and confidential records on Officer William Martin. The video shows Martin’s controversial arrest of Jacqueline Craig – the Fort Worth mother who called police to report an assault on her son, back in December.

Officer Martin received a suspension for his actions, but Pridgen and Keyes were demoted. As a result of that demotion the two are no longer a part of Chief Fitzgerald’s executive team and both have been busted down to the rank of police captain.

At the press conference this morning Craig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, talked about the punishment for Officer Martin versus the punishment for the FWPD officers. “Martin amassed a series of felonies on that day from assault, to aggravated assault, to perjury, official corruption, false arrest [and] to each of these he received no criminal investigation, no criminal prosecution. He received a 10-day vacation and he was returned to the force with a scheduled promotion,” Merritt said. “It’s a sad day for the city of Fort Worth. The level of blatant racism and unapologetic hypocrisy should no longer be tolerated and so we take this stand together today.”

The first thing said by Former Deputy Chief Keyes when he took the podium was, “My personal situation and that of my colleague, Abdul Pridgen, cannot and should not overshadow the Jacqueline Craig incident.”

Keyes said in addition to misrepresenting and vilifying him and his colleague, the investigation involving Craig and her daughter was lackluster at best. “The police department’s, and ultimately the city’s, mishandling and response to the incident was akin to trying to extinguish a forest fire with a water pistol. Given such response, no one should be surprised that instead of abating the flames have only spread.”

Chief Fitzgerald also suspended Keyes for three days, and recommended that the U.S. Civil Service Commission drop Pridgen down two more ticks – to the rank of sergeant.

An internal investigation found Pridgen and Keyes exchanged text messages about Officer Martin and issues of racial disparity. Speaking about that Keyes said, “That claim is grossly inaccurate and taken out of context. I told investigators on several occasions we discussed the case ad nauseam.”

Keyes said the only text messages he and Pridgen sent back and forth concerned the mistreatment of minorities within the department.

During the press conference Keyes spoke passionately, saying that he is a career public servant and the allegations that he helped leak the body camera footage is pure speculation. “I’m not some back door dealing, double-talking, side-stepping political puppet. I am a career public servant. Leave your opinion [and] your emotion out of it. Look at the facts. Look at the evidence. I challenge anyone, anyone, to intelligently refute what I’ve shared here today.”

Walking out of the disciplinary hearing last week Pridgen, who did not attend the Monday press conference, said, “I’ve done nothing wrong and justice will be served. I will consult with my attorney and I’m pretty sure they can expect a lawsuit.”

Chief Fitzgerald has said the investigation surrounding Craig’s arrest and the actions of the officers are not the same and that he cannot rule out criminal charges being filed against the two men.

Keyes claimed the Chief has ulterior motives. “Fitzgerald is more concerned with political capital and upward mobility than with the welfare of the community,” Keyes told reporters, adding, “I must respect his position but I no longer respect his judgment.”

In regards to the comments and allegations made by Keyes at the press conference Chief Fitzgerald’s office issues a statement that said, in part, –

“In the interest of respecting the officers’ rights to due process in this investigation, we are unable to discuss the particular facts in the case.”

As for his future with the Fort Worth Police Department and in what capacity he’ll work after his suspension Keyes said, “I have not been given my assignment. I have no access to my city email. I do not have my city phone. I have no idea where I will be assigned, but I am unconcerned. Wherever I go I will do my job and I will do it well as I always have.”


FWPD Officer Speaks About Demotion After Leaked Video

Cognitively Impaired Fort Worth Cop Pepper Sprays Motorcyclists while Riding

By: Staff

– A Fort Worth police officer caught on camera pepper spraying a group of bikers has been removed from the field and placed on desk duty pending an investigation.

Video recorded by one of the bikers shows a FWPD officer had a driver in a Dodge Ram truck pulled over on the side of Interstate 20 on Sunday. A group of motorcyclists pass by as the officer gets out of his vehicle, and that’s when he pulls out his pepper spray and aims the spray at the bikers.

Fort Worth PD Officer William Figueroa

Chase Stone, the biker who posted the video on Facebook, called it “beyond dangerous.”

“Law enforcement is here to protect and serve, not intentionally try to harm others,” he wrote in the caption.

The Fort Worth Police Department said an Officer William Figueroa is under investigation for the incident. Figueroa is a six-year veteran of FWPD. The department said the incident was captured on dashcam and body camera.

“The Fort Worth Police Department takes any complaint of officer misconduct very seriously and this incident will be investigated thoroughly,” police said in a statement.

Brittany Botello and her truck passengers were hit by the pepper spray blow back, but they were not the target of the spray.

“He sprays them first and then sprays everybody in the truck and it came into the truck because I was the driver and I’m six months pregnant and I just started… everybody started choking,” said Brittany Botelli.

Terry McKenzie, a passenger in the truck, said they told the officer they were choking, but he said he was just spraying the bikes and didn’t apologize for the spray getting on their group.

“He said he was scared,” McKenzie said of why the officer sprayed the bikers.

Markus Hernandez, another passenger, said the officer told them the bikes were too close to his car for his comfort.

Botello was ticketed for driving without a license. But the group in the truck said the officer didn’t have to open up a can of pepper spray on the bikers.

“They could have got blinded and ran into the truck,” McKenzie said. “I mean it could have been bad.