Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Black Seattle Man Jailed - He Looked at A White Woman - Really.

On July 9, 2014, Mr. William Wingate, a 69 year old African American man, was arrested, made to walk through Seattle streets handcuffed and bent,  and jailed overnight because a white female Seattle Police Officer, says he looked at her, that he was carrying a golf club and swung it in the direction of her patrol car, she was driving, this action caused her to have "reasonable fear he would assault her and others."

This shameful act against Mr. Wingate occurred 59 years after the Emmet Till murder in Jim Crow Mississippi, the culture and practice of lynching Black men for something as innocuous as "looking" at a white woman remains in the actual or cellular, memory of the majority of African Americans. It is part of the trauma that lingers from slavery and Jim Crow.

When whites are told of Mr. Wingate being arrested, handcuffed and made to walk bent over, publicly disgraced, charged and jailed in the aftermath of what is reported in the crime report "she observed him look at her and aggressively swing his golf club in the direction of her patrol car." She being a white female police officer on duty, with a gun and in her patrol car, not sitting still but driving past him. He had never seen her before or even then.  The sign post he was suppose to have hit is metal, we all know the sound that an aggressive swing of a metal club would have made. All within a far range would have noticed, but no one did. She found no one to corroborate her story that this man was a threat to her safety and that of others.

Yet she says that this "reasonably caused her to fear he would assault her." She says his act was aggressive and his club hit the stop sign (post). There is no damage to vehicle or post. And no other person at that crosswalk reported as that "he struck fear in them." Yes that is the language used in this official police report. There is nothing reasonable about any of this.

Her fear, her actions, those of the assisting officers, making him walk handcuffed to the Precinct, the overnight jailing, none of it is reasonable. Mr. Wingate is 69 years old, he has been walking with either a cane or his beloved golf club a gift from one of his best friends, he has a 30 year military career, followed by a career as a Metro Bus Driver without incident, has good relationship with police officers professionally and personally. Why not he thought he had beat the odds that so many Black men do not, never arrested, never jailed.  He walks to beat the odds of heart failure and strokes that so many Black men do not beat. But he has lost that challenge. And we thank God, she did not shoot him in response to her "reasonable fear" he would assault her and others with his golf club, that she says he was using as a weapon.  There were no 911 calls from the others she said should have reasonable fear of this older man, clean cut, waiting to legally cross the street, minding his business, enjoying his daily walk of at least 10 miles from Northgate to the Central District.

Unfortunately, and what whites who do not know African Americans and especially our men, being arrested for creating fear in a white woman because he looked at her, never goes away. And for me  writing this, and advocating for him, it brought rushing back the trauma of August 28, 1955 when a black boy was murdered following a false accusation that he looked at and whistled or said something to a white women in Mississippi. I lived in New Jersey, but that did not matter, the conversation of the adults in my family and the news made me know that this was a tragedy.

So this is August, 2014 and in Ferguson, MO a young black man about to embark on a good future, college, but is shot and killed by a police officer. The world watches in horror at the clashes between police and residents.  The President and his Attorney General responds.  Michael Brown did not beat the odds associated with being a black male in the USA. In St. Louis, another black man is dead because two police officers thought they were in danger, of being stabbed to death, through a bullet proof vest.

When hearing about Mr. Wingate there is a repeated refrain " He is lucky she did not shoot him, he could have been dead."  Though not shot or killed by this white women, though a trained officer, has a race bias so deep, this bias overshadowed, her "Unreasonable" fear of black men. She is the weapon that brings fear to Black men and the women who share their lives. She should not be carrying a gun if a look by a black man carrying and swinging a golf club brings the kind of fear she describes. It is almost impossible to hold a golf club and not swing it. She says it struck the stop sign. The sign is on the sidewalk, she was in her car in the street. He was not charged with damaging public property, because in the club making contact it never left a mark. So he did "aggressively swing the club."

She should have never followed him, and if in so much fear he was going to assault her, protocol is to call for assistance. If she had time to drive around the corner, and follow him, she had time to make the call. Be clear, she did not stop her car where he supposedly looked at her, he walked an entire block without incident, and she found no other besides her who thought he would assault them with the club. Being stopped by a police officer never works in the favor of a Black man, we all know this. Data and research informs us the odds of something good happening for a Black men stopped by a police officer are not the same as the odds for any other human being.

The responding officers should have not conspired with this officer who was not using her best training and judgement about this man. That did not work in his favor. Lt. Lam who approved the arrest and transport should have had superior judgement, he did not. That did not work in favor of a 69 year old black man without prior arrests. And the City Attorney could have not seen this as something worthy of his time and the Public Defender should have not advised him to sign away his peace of mind for the next two years. He did nothing to warrant this arrest.  And the judge could have not heard any of it. Nothing worked for him.

To their credit, City Attorney Pete Holmes, and his Assistant Craig Sims, they did return my call, they are doing an investigation, a thorough one. No outcome of that investigation yet. I will give them time to do their work. To the discredit of Seattle Police Commander, a request to meet with him about this has gone unanswered.

So if any will be truthful, we know that had Mr. Wingate been a 69 year old white male, standing on the corner, Ms. Whitlach would not have be in fear because he looked at her. He would not have been place behind bars, he would not have had to know the trauma of not beating the odds for Walking While Black in Seattle WA in 2014.

We should not wait until, another Black Man is shot this time in Seattle by a fearful Police Officer with a gun. If a look will bring the outcome that it brought for Mr. Wingate, we know that any act can bring about a shooting by this Police Officer who is trained to kill when there is a "reasonable" cause. What Officer Whitlach sees as reasonable should not be condoned by Seattle Police Chief Kathy O'Toole, herself a white woman, or by Mayor Ed Murray, or by any reasonable resident of Seattle.

I will not rest until he receives the justice that is promised him for being a law abiding and contributing citizen for 69 years. This may seem as it is nothing in light of the police shootings in MO. But should we only respond to the tragedy and not the underlying causes?  I am not a reactionary by training, as a former Legislator I am trained to see underlying causes, to make policies, to be pro active over re-active. And it matter not who does not stand with Mr. Wingate, I have and will continue acknowledging his trauma.  Those who have responded are not those I thought would, and then again, maybe I knew they would not.

This information comes from Seattle Police Offense Report 2014-222942 of July 9, 2014. And will verify the facts stated.


Abbie J said...

Sad , this Is The Life ...

Pete Morris said...

Hey now, this situation really angers me. Your rundown of the situation is very clear and cogent. It gives credence to the general rule that it takes ten times the effort to refute BS than it does to state it. I'm going to spread your post around a bit, I hope it does not draw too many idiots and trolls.


The so-called “discipline” and “counseling” of Officer Cynthia Whitlatch makes no sense whatsoever. OK, the Seattle police claim that she did not arrest Mr. Wingate because he’s black, but she lied on her police report and that in itself should be grounds for dismissal. How in hell can they justify a police officer lying to get anybody arrested, white or black? If she can lie that easily, and get another cop to back up her lie, every arrest they’ve both have made in their careers should be questioned.

As far as the so-called “counseling,” how the hell can you “counsel” and person in one week so that she will not lie again? And counsel her for what exactly? Is the Seattle Police saying that Officer Whitlatch didn’t know what harassment and lying are before she got counseling? The Seattle Police say they’ve done nothing wrong for lying. This is serious. When we definitely know there’s a mentally unbalanced racist cop, we need to get her off the streets before she kills somebody. I don’t live in Seattle, but if I did I’d be demonstrating by myself in necessary to have her jail. She assaulted and falsely imprisoned Mr. Wingate.

We all know she would not have stopped a 70p year old white man with a golf club, and for sure would not have taken him to jail. I'm positive it was racial profiling, but to get her fired we need to point out that she lies on innocent people and thinks it is OK to do so. Whenever we find one of these people, white or black, who join the police force just to be a paid bully or to express their racial hostility we need to demand that they are fired. And don't stop that demand until they are more careful about who they hire.
Lamont E. Wilkins