And nearly ended in a nightmare.
An Arizona cop mistook a father and daughter who were traveling to the Grand Canyon on vacation for car thieves and then held them at gun point, pointing his gun at the dad and his 7-year-old daughter, leaving her traumatized and questioning if cops are the “good guys.”
“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,” Ken Walton, a San Francisco resident posted on Facebook at around 1 a.m. Friday.
Walton and his daughter Wren were driving from Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon in a Toyota Camry they’d rented in Las Vegas.
As they exited Interstate 40, headed toward the Grand Canyon, they were pulled over by an Arizona Highway Patrol officer.
Walton recalled he hadn’t been speeding, so he wondered if his rental had broken tail light.
So he rolled down his window and waited for the officer to approach.
“Suddenly,” Walton wrote in his Facebook post recounting the event. “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.”
At that point, Walton knew something was wrong.
“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.”
But the trooper 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,” Walton recalled.
When his daughter tried to get out of the passenger seat to reach the front window in order to roll it down, the trooper pointed his gun at her and shouted commands at the 7-year-old.
Eventually, Walton was able to get the window down himself, and the officer ordered him to exit the car with his hands in the air.
As he slowly exited, the trooper came to the driver’s side shouting at Walton to face away from him “as if I did something wrong” he remembered.
Then, as his terrified daughter witnessed, the cop screamed at Walton, “Get your hands away from your waist or I’ll blow two holes through your back right now!”
Walton expressed he was terrified.
“My hands were high in the air as he said this, and I was not in any way reaching for my waist.”
Walton braced himself, expecting to perhaps be shot dead in front of his daughter.
“I’ve heard stories of police yelling out false things like this before they unjustifiably attack someone as a way to justify the attack,” he shared. “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.”
Thankfully, no bullets were discharged and he slowly backed towards the angry trooper, was then handcuffed and thrown inside the back of the trooper’s police cruiser.
Several other officers began arriving and he could see them talking to his daughter.
As he sat in the back of the police car, he found out by listening to dispatchers that the car he rented had its licenses plate stolen, and the company reported it to the Nevada DMV.
Things eventually got worked out.
“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,” said the frightened father.
The trooper stuck steadfastly to his guns claiming, that he’d made a “threatening movement” toward his waist.
“I said it wasn’t true, and he said this wasn’t the place to discuss it,” Walton said in retrospect. “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.”
His daughter, traumatized, told Walton she wanted to cry to the officers who were comforting her, but was fearful they would get upset with her.
Walton recounted the traumatic-impact being held at gunpoint had on his daughter.
“As we drove the final hour to our Grand Canyon hotel, she told me she was confused, because she thought the police were the good guys, and she didn’t know why the officer said he would kill me when my hands were in the air. I tried to come up with an explanation but I struggled for words.”
“The officer that arrested me was so pumped up on adrenaline and eager to get a “bad guy” that he could barely control himself,” Walton concluded. “And if I’d looked just a little bit more threatening to him – because I was black, or young, or long-haired, or tattooed, or didn’t speak English – I believe he might have pulled the trigger.”
“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,” he wrote. “I got lucky tonight. My daughter and I made it to the Grand Canyon and I’m going to try to salvage what’s left of our vacation.”
Walton said he hasn’t decided yet if he’ll pursue legal action at a later date.
Not surprisingly, the Arizona Highway Patrol stood by and defended the trooper who brandished his gun on a father and daughter who just wanted to enjoy their day at the Grand Canyon together.
“We believe our trooper did everything he could to control the situation and make it as safe as possible for everyone involved,” ADPS Captain Damon Cecil alarmed. “We don’t know if we pulled over Mr. and Mrs. Jones on a family vacation or a guy who just murdered his wife who is going to pull a gun on him.”