The Stop That Got Away

A Facebook story has drawn tears, anger and interest, pushing all the right buttons and jerking all the right tears. The story belongs to a guy named Ken Walton, who was described in twits (since deleted) linking to his FB post as an executive at Electronic Arts.  And, as Walton describes it, was lucky to survive a stop in Arizona.

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. PLEASE SHARE IT, because I have an important reason for staying up past 1AM to write it down.

Certainly a tempting intro. The backstory is that he was driving a rental car, whose plates had been stolen. The cop called in the car and “misunderstood” the report to mean that he was driving a stolen car, so he made the stop.

Suddenly, the officer rapped on the rear passenger side window with his pistol. My daughter, who was sitting inches from the barrel of his gun, jumped with fear as the officer yelled at me to roll down the front passenger window, his service weapon pointed directly at me. I knew something was terribly awry and I tried to remain calm, keeping my hands visible as I slowly fumbled for the window controls in an unfamiliar car.

My daughter rolled down her window and I explained that we were in a rental car, that we had no weapons, and I was having trouble figuring out how to roll down the front passenger window from my driver’s side door. The officer didn’t listen, and kept yelling louder and more insistently, ordering me to comply with his request as he leered at me down the barrel of his pistol. My daughter panicked and tried to get out of her booster seat to reach forward to roll down the front window, and the officer screamed her at her not to move as he pointed his pistol at her.

Pointing his gun at all is bad. At a child? Inexcusable.

Then, as I had my hands in the air, he yelled, at the top of his lungs, in a voice I will never forget, as my daughter looked on in terror, “Get your hands away from your waist or I’ll blow two holes through your back right now!” My hands were high in the air as he said this, and I was not in any way reaching for my waist. I was utterly terrified. I’ve heard stories of police yelling out false things like this before they unjustifiably attack someone as a way to justify the attack, and I thought this was what was happening to me. I braced for bullets to hit me and all I could think of was my daughter having to watch it happen and being left alone on the side of the highway with an insane, violent cop.

The upshot is that after he was cuffed and placed in the cruiser.

After a few minutes he released me from the handcuffs, and since I knew the truth, I called him out for over-reacting, and told him he had no reason to threaten to shoot me. He stood by his story that I had made a threatening movement toward my waist, and I said it wasn’t true, and he said this wasn’t the place to discuss it. He let me go attend to my daughter but continued to “detain” us for another 20 minutes as he talked to his supervisors, presumably plotting damage control.

He was released, went on to the Grand Canyon with his daughter and wrote about it on Facebook, offering his epiphany.walton

If you are a person who has ever looked skeptically at the claims of Black Lives Matter, or others who talk about police violence, I urge you to consider what happened to me and put yourselves in the shoes of others. I just survived a bizarre gunpoint situation in which I was as innocent as Philando Castile, who was not as lucky as I was. We live in a society where anywhere and everyone can have a gun at any time, and police are responding with fear in dangerous ways. I got lucky tonight.

So what is the takeaway? That it can happen to anybody. That cops, at least some, are crazy? That BLM is real because it could even happen to a white guy? That we only hear about the stories of bad dudes who are arrested and never the innocent, mistaken guys who escaped with their lives, their daughter’s life, by the mere good fortune of not being a minority? So many possibilities. And these are all reflected in the Facebook way, between “likes,” comments about how cops are evil, and the ubiquitous suggestion that he sue the bastards.

There are also the questions, about why this story matters when the similar stories offered by black drivers are ignored. When the white guy tells a story, suddenly everybody gives damn? That it only mattered to Walton because it was about him? It gets real when the gun is pointed at your daughter?

Maybe these are the takeaways. Confirmation bias suggested it should be. Except Ken Walton is an interesting hero. He was a lawyer, which one would never guess from his post. Note the word “was.” He’s also a convicted scammer, having sold phony paintings in the early days of eBay, creating the appearance of their being by famous artists that he found at garage sales, then shill bidding them into six figures.

In April 2001, US authorities charged Walton . . . with bidding on their own auctions, the first-ever prosecution for so-called “shill bidding” on the Internet. Walton cooperated with the prosecutors, admitted he had forged Richard Diebenkorn’s initials onto the painting that he had auctioned on eBay, and pleaded guilty in exchange for leniency. He relinquished his law license and in 2004 he was sentenced to nine months of probation and was required to pay $74,232 in restitution to victims.

He went on to write a book about his scam.

In April 2006 Simon Spotlight Entertainment, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, published Walton’s first book, Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay, a memoir of the eBay scandal and its aftermath.

He later co-founded a gaming business, Clicknation, which was reportedly sold to Entertainment Arts for $35 million.

The Arizona Daily Sun picked up on Walton’s story, and the Arizona Highway Patrol stuck to its story.

[DPS Capt. Damon] Cecil called that suggestion “patently ridiculous.”

“We don’t go out wanting to shoot people and if that was truly the intent of our trooper, why wouldn’t he have just done it?” Cecil said.

There is no video footage that would allow an outside party to see what really happened. Cecil said there was no dash camera in the vehicle and the trooper was not equipped with a body camera.

After backup officers arrived and Walton was in the back of a patrol vehicle in handcuffs, the trooper learned the license plate on the rental car wasn’t stolen, after all.

Walton replied on Facebook.

For those of you who think I made up the story about the traffic stop, or claim I can get dash cam footage of the incident, here is the Arizona Highway Patrol public relations version of what happened. No dash cam footage is available. What a surprise. I was not interviewed for the Arizona Sun story.

There are various bits of the story, and the write-up of it, that raise questions, but does not necessarily prove it didn’t happen. Then again, just because Ken Walton says so isn’t good enough either, because there’s another takeaway: Liars lie, and Ken Walton is a liar, having sold his integrity on eBay.

He needed the dash cam to prove the truthfulness of his story more than the AHP cop. But for confirmation bias, this would have been obvious to his Facebook followers and the many people who bought his story because they want to believe.

22 thoughts on “The Stop That Got Away

  1. Tim Knowles

    I don’t understand the number of comments to his post instructing him to file a lawsuit. Doing plaintiffs’ work, I wish that some of these folks who think it is so easy to file a lawsuit would be more generous when they actually get on a jury.

    1. SHG Post author

      The law solves everything they want, and nothing they don’t. You need to hang out with regular people more.

  2. bacchys

    Liars do lie. Judges tell cops they are allowed to lie, and they do. Often.

    When it’s a choice between two liars as to which is telling the truth?

  3. Hal

    Aren’t you engaging in a “background smear” here? A practice I believe you’ve criticized when undertaken by media and State. What gives?

    1. SHG Post author

      No. Not even close. The “smear” is to suggest propensity to be a criminal based on prior crimes, whether to show that a person acted in conformity with his prior crime or that he’s just a worthless human being.

      This raises no issue of propensity to commit a crime. Credibility isn’t propensity. Credibility is always in issue, and even though prior crimes evidence is generally inadmissable for the purpose of showing propensity, evidence of being a liar is allowed.

      1. Zack

        So how does attacking someone’s credibility based on their past acts differ from attacking the credibility of attacking a journalist based on past acts? You’re attacking someone’s credibility in both cases.

        What’s the difference between saying, “This person must be lying about their alibi because they’ve behaved like a scumbag before.” and saying “This person must be lying about the innocence of the police because they’ve behaved like a scumbag before”? The former is the essence of what you’ve said you dislike, the latter is what you’ve stated here.

        1. SHG Post author

          The distinction between propensity (you kinda missed that word in your conflation of fairly basic concepts) and credibility isn’t really all that hard to grasp. I’ve already explained it. I am sorry for your inability to grasp it, but I can’t understand it for you.

        2. Marc Whipple

          If it helps, think of it this way: Lying can be thought of as the one exception to the propensity rule. It isn’t, but maybe that will make more sense to you. Just because you beat somebody up doesn’t mean you are more likely to deal drugs or vice versa, but if you lied about material things before, you may lie about material things again. It’s specific (“You’re a liar.”) versus general (“You’re a bad person.”)

          It *only* works for lying. You still can’t use evidence that somebody’s a liar to show they’re more likely to be a drug dealer, only that they’re more likely to lie about it.

          1. SHG Post author

            A lot of people read SJ, most of whom have at least a working knowledge of crim law. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there will invariably be some who don’t, and for whom the concepts are either too foreign or require a depth of understand they can’t muster. We’re all not at the same level, and that’s fine.

            I’m disinclined to dumb down concepts so that people who find the nuance too problematic can have at least a glimmer of understanding. First, because it’s not accurate. Second, because it creates a false sense of responsibility that any reader who doesn’t get it is entitled to an explanation at their level. They’re not, and I have no desire to turn SJ into remedial law for the clueless.

      2. Hal

        Hey Scott,

        Just noticed the post above attributed to me. I didn’t make that comment, don’t know how my name got attributed to it, but I’m not the author.


        1. SHG Post author

          Sit down, Hal. I have something to tell you and it’s going to make you sad. You are not the only “Hal” in the world. I know, but you’ll get over it.

          1. Hal

            I’m sure that, in the fullness of time, I will indeed get over my disappointment…

            Are there really two Hals registered (or whatever the appropriate word is) on Simple Justice? I’d think that to avoid confusion of exactly this sort, the software would prohibit two posters w/ the same name, is that not the case?

            Btw, I’m a genuine Hal, not a Henry or Harold nicknamed Hal. Just sayin’.

            Hal 1.0

  4. ken

    It will be interesting to see if there is now at least one more cop with a more positive opinion on body cameras.

    Or not.

  5. Paul L.

    “He needed the dash cam to prove the truthfulness of his story more than the AHP cop.”
    Would not be the first time Police lied about Dash cam video not existing.
    I would if Walton saw one while detained in the back of the police car.

    1. SHG Post author

      Walton doesn’t claim he saw a dash cam in the cruiser, or that he has any reason to believe the cops are lying about there being no video. Do you know something no one else knows or are you just going with the tastiest flavor of fruitcake?

  6. John Barleycorn


    KlickNations speciality was free-to-play social role-playing games.

    Someone must have already had “clicknation” sewed up. But considering how many of your readers get free finicial advice like, “Don’t go to law school.”, from you, you might want to fix that.

    Anyway, even when one is “role playing” it’s pretty easy to burn through 35 million. But I wouldn’t recommend civil law suits against the coppers as a bailout unless you have at least a few hundred million in seed money to make a good run at it.

    I guess you can always set yourself or a loved one up to be killed or critically injured but that’s best left to professional black people who have mastered furtive movements or full time rednecks from the hood.

    P.S. You should start encouraging some of your social scientist wann be readers to look into just what the fuck is up with burning down auto parts stores and beauty salons in particular for their doctrate dissertation. I mean why not real-estate and mortage broker store fronts instead? BTW, keep your eye on superglue and duck tape stocks. Rumor has it they have already replaced welding rods as the bread and butter of beating the futures markets if you haven’t figured that out from your law bunker yet.

  7. Andrew Stallings

    So what I’m picking up here is that Walton, having lied previously, probably lied entirely about the incident and we should side with the cops on this one. Right? If I’m wrong, I’m sorry; just advise me who we need to side with on this.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re wrong. We have no idea whether Walton lied or not. What we do know is that we just can’t accept his story as true because he told it. And whether the cop is telling the truth or not is an independent issue. It’s not mutually exclusive.

      1. Klaus Robertson

        If only the police has some real easy way to tell us what they say happened did, like a vehicle dash cam or a basic body cam. I guess I am living in fantasy land to expect that of the police.

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