AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The white Fort Worth police officer seen on viral video wrestling to the ground and arresting a black woman who called police to report a neighbor choking her son is not a racist, the city's police chief said on Friday.
The Facebook live video seen more than 2.5 million times ignited nationwide rage, with many saying the reason for the arrest was racial bias. City officials told a news conference they will investigate the matter thoroughly.
"I can't call it racism," Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald told the news conference, saying the officer did not handle the situation properly and was rude.
"There is a difference between rude and racism," he said. The city promised a through investigation.
The woman in the video, Jacqueline Craig, 46, and the officer argued about a man she said had choked her 7-year-old son for throwing paper on the ground.
In the video, the officer calmly says, "Why don't you teach your son not to litter?"
The comment angered Craig. She told the officer he should be more concerned about a man who choked her son rather than whether the child littered.
As one of her daughters steps between the officer and her mother, the officer wrestles Craig to the ground and places a stun gun in her back. He arrested the mother and two of her daughters on charges including resisting arrest.
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After the arrest, the officer was subject to racial taunts and profanity from bystanders, the video showed. He was placed on restrictive duty status.
Craig told reporters ahead of the news conference that she thought she was doing the right thing in seeking the help from police to report someone choking her child.
"It made me feel less of a parent that I couldn't protect him when he needed it," she said after being released from jail.
Her lawyer has called for the officer to be fired and prosecuted, and for the city to drop charges against Craig and her daughters.
City officials said they have also launched an investigation into the incident that prompted Craig to call police, the matter of a neighbor allegedly choking her child.
"In my opinion, that should have been the focus," Fitzgerald said.
A series of videos showing officers using deadly force against unarmed African-Americans in recent years has touched off protests and raised questions of racial bias in U.S. policing.
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(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza)