New video shows white Seattle cop arresting 70yo black veteran for carrying golf club

Reuters/Elaine Thompson
The Seattle Police Department is reviewing the conduct of an officer after she arrested an elderly black man who was using a golf club as a cane. Posting online, the officer also characterized civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., as “chronic black racism.”

Seattle police released dashcam footage of the July encounter on Wednesday.

"You swung that golf club at me when I turned the corner at 11th and Pike,” Officer Cynthia Whitlatch said to 70-year-old William Wingate before arresting him.

The alleged club-swinging is not shown in the 20-minute video which starts out with Whitlatch -- who is white -- repeatedly yelling at Wingate to drop the golf club, calling it a “weapon” at one point. Wingate protests that he has been “walking with this golf club for 20 years.”

The video was obtained by The Stranger through a public records request.

"You just swung that golf club at me!” Whitlatch said in the video.

“No, I did not!” Wingate replied.

Wingate, an Air Force veteran who has no criminal history, was eventually arrested and booked into jail, according to KIRO.

“I was scared,” Wingate said, KIRO reported. “I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I knew one thing—I was being framed.”

Wingate, a retired bus driver who served in the military for 20 years, said he doesn’t know if he was racially profiled.

“I know one thing,” he said. “I’m a black man walking down the street doing nothing and I got stopped and went to jail by a white police officer.”

He has filed a claim with the City of Seattle, asking for damages of more than $750,000.

"Mr. Wingate's physicians and family members and friend will attest to the emotional distress caused by the racial profiling, arrest, and incarceration of this man, whose only crime was 'walking in Seattle while black,’” the claim says in part.

Seattle police have apologized to Wingate and dropped the original misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a weapon.

"The Mayor believes that these incidents are unfortunate and disappointing," said Viet Shelton, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s communications director, according to The Stranger.

"He supports [Police] Chief [Kathleen] O’Toole’s decision to call for a comprehensive review of the overall conduct and performance of the officer involved."

O’Toole announced the review of Whitlatch on Wednesday.

Whitlatch is one of the Seattle Police Department officers who filed a federal lawsuit against the city’s use of force policies, KIRO reported.

Seattle police said a complaint over the arrest was filed with the Office of Professional Accountability.

"The officer who made the arrest received counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution," the Seattle Police Department said in a statement.

Whitlatch has not been disciplined for behavior in the past, Seattle police said, adding that there was no racial bias involved in Wingate’s arrest.

“He should feel confident walking with a golf club in hand anywhere near the East Precinct,” spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. “He should absolutely not be concerned.”

READ MORE: Seattle cop won’t face charges after punching handcuffed black woman

Commenting on Facebook, Whitlatch called civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting on an unarmed black teenager “chronic black racism," as pointed out by The Stranger.

“I am tired of black peoples [sic] paranoia that white people are out to get them,” she wrote. "I am tired of hearing a black racist tell me the only reason they are being contacted is because they are black solely because I am NOT black."

After Facebook user Brian Davis responded, Whitlatch called him “another black racist.”

The Seattle Police Department is also battling criticism over the seemingly wanton use of pepper spray on a crowd marching through the city on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as RT has reported.

A high school history teacher, Jesse Hagopian, was directly in front of the spraying officer. He filed a claim against the city on Wednesday, nine days after the incident occurred during an anti-police brutality protest on the holiday named for the slain civil rights leader.