Walton writes on Facebook“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”
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Arizona PSD say Walton’s post is “inflammatory” and “irresponsible”, furthermore, officer Oton Villegas only drew his weapon because “Initially the driver, identified as Kenneth Walton, was not responding to officer’s commands while seated in his vehicle”
Walton disputes police account, trooper didn’t tap on driver’s window, but “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”
Walton’s rental car came up as stolen because the rental car company had not replaced the license plates when the front plate was reported stolen
Kenneth Walton and his precious cargo
Kenneth Walton, a San Francisco native, said he thought the Arizona state trooper following him and his 7-year-old daughter wanted to warn him their rental car had a broken taillight, during a family trip to the Grand Canyon, last Thursday.
They were on an Interstate highway in Las Vegas and Flagstaff, Walton who said he knew he hadn’t been speeding, pulled over on an off-ramp, rolled down his driver’s side window and waited. According to Walton that’s when things went “terribly awry.”
He later posted on Facebook: “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,” Walton wrote on Facebook, hours after the incident. “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.”
His post created a firestorm for discussions about what is appropriate during interactions with law enforcement.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is standing by the trooper’s actions, including his threat to shoot Walton during the traffic stop, said Capt. Damon Cecil of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Although it has confirmed the traffic stop took place, they dispute the tone and some of the details in Walton’s Facebook post, calling it “inflammatory” and “irresponsible.”
“We sympathize with them; I don’t think there’s any law enforcement official who would not be just as angry, just as fearful and terrorized if [they were in a similar situation and] officers had guns pointed out,” “It’s a scary situation. But in light of that, this is a positive story. … This case is a prime example of how things should be done.”
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, DPS, the traffic stop occurred around 7:43 p.m. on Aug. 11, after the license plate on Walton’s rental car came up as stolen. The trooper requested backup and followed the rental car on the Interstate 40 until it exited the highway.
Kenneth Walton and his daughter ware on vacation to the Grand canyon before their terrifying ordeal
The trooper then approached the car with his gun drawn — actions the department said are appropriate for anything considered a “high-risk traffic stop … when serious crimes or hazardous conditions may exist.”
“Initially the driver, identified as Kenneth Walton, was not responding to officer’s commands while seated in his vehicle so the trooper moved up the passenger-side window and got the occupant’s attention by tapping on the window with his hand,” DPS said in a short statement. “It was at this time the trooper realized there was a child in the car as she sat up into view. Mr. Walton was ordered out of the car and detained in handcuffs while the trooper conducted his investigation.”
The trooper, a 7-year veteran, identified as Oton Villegas, has not had major disciplinary actions. In 2013, he was named along with several other officers in a civil rights lawsuit that was settled and dismissed without prejudice, Cecil said.
Walton, however, disputes the department’s account. He said the DPS statement omitted or downplayed details about how the incident unfolded, including how the trooper (referred to by Walton as an “officer”) interacted with his young daughter.
He says the first command came when the trooper tapped on the front passenger window, gun in hand, not before. In addition, Walton said his daughter was sitting in a booster seat in the rear passenger side of the vehicle, not in the front, and was in view — not crouched or reclined, the entire time. Walton recounted trying to stay calm while the trooper reportedly escalated the situation.
Kenneth Walton and his 7-year-old daughter
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.
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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.
Kenneth Walton and his daughter went on vacation to the Grand Canyon
Walton initially said on Facebook that dashboard camera footage would bear out his account of the traffic stop because he was under the impression all Arizona law enforcement officers had dashboard or body cameras.
However DPS tclaim there is no dashboard or body camera footage available from the incident, nor is the agency aware of any amateur video taken at the scene, only audio from the trooper’s vehicle before he walked to Walton’s car and after he returned with Walton in custody.
According to DPS, an investigation ultimately found the rental car company had not replaced the license plates when the front plate was reported stolen, which is why it had been flagged in the system.