Union: Texas chief who fired sergeant 'got this one wrong'

The union's president said the "facts of this case do not add up to a termination" for Sgt. Kenneth Pierce


By Ryan Osborne And Prescotte Stokes Iii
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas — The firing of a 22-year Fort Worth police veteran over his behavior during an August arrest was a mistake, the president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association said Tuesday at a press conference.

Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald "got this one wrong," said Rick Van Houten, association president, adding that the "facts of this case do not add up to a termination" for Sgt. Kenneth Pierce, who ordered a suspect stunned with a Taser during the incident. During the same press conference, Pierce's attorney, Terry Daffron, released the 911 call that led to the arrest.

Fitzgerald announced the firing in a statement Monday evening that was accompanied by another officer's bodycam video of the incident.

The woman who was arrested, 29-year-old Dorshay Morris of Fort Worth, according to police reports obtained by the Star-Telegram, said Tuesday in an interview that she spent several days in jail over the charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest, which were later dropped.

Police supervisors conducting a mandatory use-of-force review discovered the incident, the statement said, which took place in August, after a woman later identified in reports as Morris called for assistance regarding a domestic disturbance.

She was cooperating, Fitzgerald said in the news release, when Pierce took action. “I’m confident that everyone who sees this video, including members of this department, will agree this supervisor’s response and subsequent behaviors are absolutely unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said in the release.

The Star-Telegram obtained the police report from the incident, which includes accounts from Pierce and officer M. Bayona, who used a Taser on Morris.

On the 911 call, Morris reported that her boyfriend was trying to damage her vehicle and that she was threatening to stab him, Bayona wrote in the report.

After police arrived, Morris's boyfriend was taken into custody for public intoxication.

Officers then contacted Morris, "who was acting evasive and upset when asking her details about the argument," Bayona wrote.

When police asked Morris if she had a knife, she was "uncooperative and refusing to provide me with details," Bayona wrote.

Bayona "attempted to detain her with handcuffs, but she refused and pulled away from me," the report said.

Morris then refused to provide Bayona with identification but later confirmed that she had a knife in her purse, according to the report.

Bayona took Morris's purse and handed it to Pierce, who had arrived at the scene after Bayona. After Bayona checked inside Morris's apartment to make sure her daughter was not hurt, the woman asked for her purse back, the police report said.

Bayona then tried to handcuff Morris but she "aggressively pulled away," the police report said. Around the same time, Pierce also grabbed Morris's left wrist and tried to put it behind her back, he wrote in the police report.

Morris "immediately began to pull away from me in an attempt to break the grip," Pierce wrote. He then "delivered one strike toward the brachial plexas area" of Morris's neck, Pierce wrote.

The video does not clearly show Pierce striking Morris but he does appear to place his hands near her neck.

Pierce then tried to grab Morris by her arm and then her head, pinning her against a wall.

Pierce told Bayona to use a Taser on Morris after he noticed that she had been partially handcuffed.

"This concerned me as this was now a solid piece of metal attached to a resisting suspect which could have severely injured either Officer Bayona or myself," Pierce wrote in his report.

Charges dropped against Morris

Morris, at home Tuesday afternoon, said she was in the Mansfield jail for days before she was released.

“I sat in jail for five days and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon,” she said. “But they dropped the charges and let me go. I’ve been trying to get an attorney since then.”

Fort Worth police spokeswoman Paula Fimbres said in an email statement that Morris was released from jail on the aggravated assault and resisting arrest charges on Aug. 16, which would total three days.

“However, she had traffic warrants from other agencies,” said Fimbres. “So, she might have been in jail longer while her warrants were cleared with those agencies.”

Morris did not sustain any injuries during her arrest, according to the incident report.

While she said she was pleased with the removal of Pierce from the force, she is would like to see Bayona fired, as well.

Morris says she plans to formally release a statement through her attorney later.

Craig incident a year ago

The department’s statement calls the incident “eerily reminiscent” of the arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters a year ago, which was in the national spotlight after the video went viral.

Pierce's firing comes almost a year to the day of that arrest.

Video of the incident, on Dec. 21, 2016, went viral and became a national story.

The officer, William Martin, was suspended for 10 days without pay for escalating the situation and other errors in judgment.

Martin, who is white, arrested Craig and her daughters, who are black, after Craig had called the police for help in a dispute with a neighbor.

Last week, the city of Fort Worth told Craig that it will not pay damages in claims she filed against the city over her arrest, which for months caused outcry in the city's black community. The claims are likely headed to federal court.

©2017 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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