WATCH ABOVE: 69-year-old William Wingate appears shocked to be questioned by police.
TORONTO – A Seattle police officer has been put on administrative duties, pending a review, after allegedly posting racially-charged comments on Facebook and the questionable arrest of a 69-year-old African-American man she wrongfully claimed swung a golf club at her.
William Wingate was out for his daily stroll last July, according to The Seattle Times, when a police cruiser driven by Officer Cynthia Whitlatch pulled over to question him while he stood on a street corner, leaning on the golf club.
Within seconds Whitlatch asked Wingate to put the club down.
“I’ve had this golf club for 20 years,” a confused Wingate can be heard saying in the video.
Moments later, the officer accused Wingate of swinging the “weapon” at her. However, despite Whitlatch’s repeated reminder that the incident was being recorded – dashcam video released this week confirms the officer’s claims were false.
“I was scared,” Wingate told KIRO. “I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I knew one thing—I was being framed.”
Just over two minutes of heated debate later, Wingate was up against the squad car and in handcuffs. He’d later be brought to King County Jail for obstruction and harassment. In the police report, Whitlatch alleged the elderly man aggressively swung the club at her, striking a stop sign, close to where the arrest occurred. His case was dismissed in September.
Mason and Deputy Chief Carmen Best later personally met with Wingate, apologized, and returned his club.
Officer Whitlatch’s supervisor provided counselling to her – a resolution deemed appropriate at the time.
But the strange arrest became more complex earlier this week when the police chief learned of alleged racist comments found on Whitlatch’s Facebook account in reaction to protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
“I was shocked and disappointed to read her comments,” Chief O’Toole said in a statement Thursday. “We are working to reform the Seattle Police Department, and behaviour of this nature seriously undermines our efforts.”
The local CBS affiliate asked Wingate if he believed he was racially profiled.
“I know one thing,” the elderly man 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.”
WATCH ABOVE: Seattle police officer under review for controversial arrest, comments
Website The Stranger reports to have tracked down Whitlatch’s ex-girlfriend, former Tukwila Police Officer Corinne Purucker, who claimed Whitlatch repeatedly made racist comments over the course of their relationship and even stole illegal marijuana from police department evidence so the couple could smoke it together.
“She’s a racist,” Purucker said.
On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray asked the police chief to take Officer Whitlatch off the streets, pending a review.
“We simply need to conduct an investigation and understand what that investigation shows us,” Murray told KIRO. “And for the moment, until we have the answer this is the best course of action so that we can build, continue to rebuild trust on the part of the people of this city in our police department.”
Whitlatch has since been placed on administrative assignment pending the outcome of multiple investigations.
As for Wingate, he’s filed a complaint with the City of Seattle asking for damages in excess of $750,000.
KIRO also reports that the claim states, “Mr. Wingate’s physicians and family members and friends 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.'”