A situation that started with a summer 2014 arrest at 12th and Pike that SPD eventually was forced to apologize for — and to return the wrongly accused man’s golf club — has landed in the courts. Lawyers for William Wingate have filed a lawsuit alleging that the 70-year-old was targeted and had his rights violated by a racist East Precinct cop.
“Because of the defendants’ wrongful acts described above, the plaintiff has suffered substantial humiliation, mental and emotional distress, and other damages to be proved at trial,” the nine-page complaint filed in King County Superior Court last week reads. The full complaint is below.
Wingate was arrested in July 2014 at 12th and Pike after SPD officer Cynthia Witlatch said she was threatened by Wingate who carries a golf club with him as a walking cane.
“Only thing I can say is this: I didn’t do nothing,” Wingate told a crowd that joined him in a protest march earlier this year.
In the filing naming SPD and the officer as defendants, lawyer Susan Mindenbergs said that her client’s “encounter with Officer Whitlach and his subsequent arrest and incarceration have caused him severe emotional distress.”
“Since his arrest, Mr. Wingate has been treated for post-traumatic stress and depression,” the complaint states. “He is now fearful of police officers he does not know but whom he encounters in public or at community events.”
The suit also alleges Whitlatch has used racist language and “used her personal Facebook social media page, available to the public, to make racially derogatory comments about African Americans, specifically African American men.”
The Stranger reports that the Office of Professional Accountability investigation of officer Whitlatch’s actions won’t be complete until May or early June.
The lawsuit comes as SPD continues to work to address the Department of Justice consent decree and in the midst of ongoing issues of race and use of police force across the nation. An eight-month DOJ investigation of Seattle policing released in winter 2011 revealed troubling findings about the department’s use of force. The DOJ filed a consent decree and negotiated a plan with SPD to overhaul the department.
The full complaint is below. The City Attorney has not yet responded to the lawsuit. Continue reading