Police sergeant fired for ordering rookie to stun woman who called for help

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Texas police sergeant has been fired for ordering a rookie officer to use a stun gun on a woman who had called for help during a domestic dispute.

Fort Worth police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said in an emailed statement that he fired Sgt. Kenneth Pierce on Monday, saying the 22-year police veteran became impatient and needlessly initiated the physical confrontation with the woman, who the police department has not named. Fitzgerald also released a 12-minute video from the body camera of the rookie officer, Maria Bayona, that he said clearly shows Pierce’s behavior was “absolutely unacceptable.”

An attorney for Pierce, Terry Daffron, said the firing will be appealed. A message left with the Fort Worth Civil Service Commission asking whether Pierce had filed an appeal was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Police spokeswoman Paula Fimbres said department officials are still reviewing Officer Bayona’s actions including the deployment of her Taser in the use-of-force in the August altercation.

Fitzgerald said the incident came to light when supervisors were conducting a mandatory review of officer use of force.

“We are built on a foundation of being problem-solvers. Pierce responded in an opposite manner, and he escalated the situation endangering everyone involved including his fellow officers,” Fitzgerald said in the release.

In the video, the woman, who is black, can be seen holding her license arguing with Bayona, who is asking for her ID. Pierce, who is white, can be seen grabbing her neck, then her hair and pulling her head down to try to get the woman in handcuffs. In the video he can be heard telling Bayona to “Tase her.”

The woman was placed in handcuffs. Fitzgerald said charges against her were dropped after the video and other evidence was reviewed.

Fimbres said the department had tried to contact the woman whose face is blurred in the video to get her statement about the incident for their investigation, including leaving phone messages, mailing letters and leaving information at her address. She said the woman did not respond.

The release from Fitzgerald said he recognized the case was “eerily reminiscent” of an incident in December 2016, where a white Fort Worth officer responding to a report that a neighbor had choked a boy for littering, arrested the boy’s mother and sister, who were black. The confrontation between the officer, William Martin, and the mother, Jacqueline Craig, was broadcast on social media by one of her daughters and was viewed millions of times gaining national attention.

The release noted that in contrast to the incident last year, the department released the recording of the August incident without being asked and initiated the investigation without a complaint.

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