SPD reviewing officer who posted troubling comments, arrested man with golf club

by: David Ham Updated:

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SEATTLE —

Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen O’Toole has ordered a review into the conduct of Officer Cynthia Whitlatch, who the department confirmed posted questionable comments on Facebook and arrested an elderly veteran who was using his golf club as a cane.

The video of that arrest was released Wednesday, although the actual arrest occurred in July.

"You swung that golf club at me when I turned the corner at 11th and Pike,” Whitlatch said to him.

But the 20-minute dashcam clip doesn't show Wingate swinging the club at Whitlatch. The video starts with Whitlatch yelling at Wingate for at least three minutes to put down his golf club.

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

“I didn't swing no golf club,” Wingate responded.

Wingate was arrested and booked into jail. He does not have a criminal history.

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

KIRO 7 confirmed Whitlatch also posted comments on Facebook responding to a post about riots in Ferguson.

She called it “chronic black racism” and said, “I am tired of black peoples [sic] paranoia that white people are out to get them."

When Facebook user Brian Davis reacted, she calls him “another black racist.”

KIRO 7 asked Wingate if he believes his arrest was racial profiling.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I know one thing. I’m a black man walking down the street doing nothing and I got stopped and went to jail by a white police officer.”

Whitlatch is also one of the officers who filed a federal lawsuit against the city's use of force policies.

Despite SPD apologizing for his arrest and the charges being dismissed, Wingate said he fears police and will not return to the same block.

“They could do something else to me,” he said.

Council member Bruce Harrell said there's no reason why Wingate should have been arrested in the first place.

"He's an outstanding gentleman, so it seems a little bizarre that such a reasonable person with no criminal history would swing wildly a club at an officer," Harrell said. "That doesn’t make common sense.”

Seattle police said Whitlatch is a veteran officer and has not had any previous disciplinary issues.

"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 SPD said in a statement.

SPD said a complaint has been filed with the Office of Professional Accountability over the incident.

However, Wingate filed a claim with the City of Seattle. He's asking for damages of more than $750,000.

His claim says, in part: "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.'"

SPD said there was no racial bias in the incident.

Spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the department could have handled the incident with Wingate much better.

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

He said the chief’s review will reveal whether Whitlatch has improved her behavior or whether there have been more red flags.

KIRO 7 reached out to the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild but did not hear back.

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