On Friday evening, Ken Walton, a Caucasian resident of San Francisco, was driving through Arizona in a rental car on a Grand Canyon vacation with his 7-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by a police officer.
According to The Washington Post, Walton was not stopped for speeding, but because the car’s license plate number registered on the policeman’s radar as stolen. It wasn’t.
Accounts of what happened afterwards differ between the trooper’s report and Walton’s subsequent Facebook post, which went viral over the weekend, raising questions of what is an appropriate law enforcement response to dealing with an alleged auto thief.
Walton wrote on Facebook, “Tonight, I was arrested at gunpoint by an Arizona highway patrol officer who threatened to shoot me in the back (twice) in front of my 7-year-old daughter. For a moment, I was certain he was going to kill me for no reason. I’m alive, and I need to share the story.”
According to Walton’s rendition of the incident, officer Oton Villegas rapped on the window using his gun and pointed it in the direction of the back seat, where Walton’s daughter was seated. Villegas forced him to get out of the car at gunpoint and raise his hands in the air while threatening to shoot him. Walton told the officer he was unarmed. He was then handcuffed.
Villegas was recorded as saying, “Get your hands away from your waist or I’ll blow two holes through your back right now!” There were no dash cams or body cams to confirm Walton’s allegations against the patrol officer, but an audio feed was captured.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s statement regarding the incident relayed almost a different story entirely:
“Initially the driver, identified as Kenneth Walton, was not responding to the officer’s commands while seated in his vehicle so the trooper moved up the passenger-side window and got the occupant’s attention by tapping on the window with his hand. It was at this time the trooper realized there was a child in the car as she sat up into view. Mr. Walton was ordered out of the car and detained in handcuffs while the trooper conducted his investigation.”
The DPS, however, did confirm that Villegas pointed a gun at Walton’s 7-year-old, but it was “unintentional.” Damon Cecil of the DPS further explained to The Washington Post, “We’re not disputing that our trooper said those things. He absolutely did.”
Walton was released without a citation, but the treatment he encountered from the arresting officer only echoes that law enforcement needs to take more caution with firearms. Reckless officers endanger the lives of those they are supposed to protect, leading to traumatic experiences which victims must endure and recover from.
Banner photo credit: Facebook, Ken Walton