William Wingate was arrested last summer for walking in Seattle while black.
William Wingate was arrested last summer for "walking in Seattle while black." SPD

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William Wingate, the 70-year-old military veteran who was arrested last July by Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch as he walked through Capitol Hill using a golf club as a cane, has filed a lawsuit against the officer and police department alleging he was targeted because he is black.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court yesterday, almost surely means that the city and Wingate's legal team could not reach an agreement on damages. His two attorneys, who could not be reached for comment, filed a claim with the city alleging discrimination and seeking damages last November. The city had 60 days to respond.

The new lawsuit's narrative will be familiar to those who've watched the video, originally unearthed by The Stranger, of Wingate's arrest, and our follow-up reporting. It alleges that Whitlatch disparaged African-Americans on her Facebook page, used the word "nigger," and accuses Wingate of swinging a golf club even though her own patrol car's dashcam video provided no such evidence:


"Officer Whitlatch's racist conduct toward Mr. Wingate deprived him of his constitutional equal protection rights," the lawsuit states. It goes on to say that Wingate, who has no criminal record, suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression and is now fearful of police officers. One new allegation is that officers at the East Precinct station who processed Wingate "refused to give him water," and that he didn't receive any water until eight hours later. He spent the night in King County Jail.

You can read the whole lawsuit here.

As of February, Whitlatch was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the Office of Professional Accountability. For those of you wondering why she hasn't been fired yet, Pierce Murphy, who directs the OPA, told me his office will need to use "most of the 180 days" that he is allowed, under the department's contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), to complete the investigation. That means it won't be completed until early May or early June.