How 'Grandfather In Our Community' Lost Faith In Seattle Police | KUOW News and Information

How 'Grandfather In Our Community' Lost Faith In Seattle Police

Jan 30, 2015

The Seattle Police officer involved in a case involving the arrest of a senior citizen has been reassigned to a job where she has no contact with the public.

The move follows public outcry over a dashboard video showing the arrest of William Wingate, an elderly black man who had been standing on a Capitol Hill corner, leaning on his golf club.

The officer, Cynthia Whitlatch, was also found to have written posts on Facebook that complained about “black racists.”

On Thursday, 70-year-old Wingate spoke to the public.

He said that in all his years driving a bus for Metro, he developed a deep respect for the Seattle Police Department. And as a veteran, he had a healthy respect for authority.

When his siblings brought up the need for police reform, Wingate stood up for cops.

“I guess you could say I was ‘pro-police,’” he said.

Retired, Wingate took long walks around the city.

Last July, an officer accused him of threatening her with a golf club he used as a walking stick. The dashboard camera did not show that he had threatened her.

Instead, it showed him leaning down on the golf club like a cane, while Officer Whitlatch repeatedly asked him to put it down.

Wingate appeared confounded and confused, and demanded she call a superior.

“I was afraid, I was scared,” Wingate said on Thursday. “I didn’t know what she was going to do. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”

Gerald Hankerson heads Seattle-King County's chapter of the NAACP. He says he wants Officer Whitlatch terminated.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Then he was arrested. He spent the night in jail.

“It was the most miserable night I’ve ever had,” he said.

Wingate doesn’t stick up for the police anymore, in those conversations with his siblings.

On Thursday, Wingate has filed a claim against the city for three quarters of a million dollars.

Gerald Hankerson, head of the Seattle King County NAACP, said Wingate was a family man.

“He’s what we refer to as a grandfather in our community,” Hankerson said. “He’s a member of First AME church, he’s been carrying this golf club for 20 years. The community knows Mr. Wingate as someone who carries this golf club.”

“It’s sad to lose the sight of someone that actually been supportive of law enforcement, now looking at it in a different way,” he said.

Seattle Police has since returned Wingate's cane. The department issued the video for the sake of transparency. In an online statement Thursday, Chief Kathleen O’Toole expressed shock and disappointment over the officer’s Facebook posts.

O’Toole said all of the officer’s cases are now under review.

She said she’s asked the watchdog agency, the Office of Professional Accountability, to launch an investigation.

Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery.