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.
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.