Former police officer Cynthia Whitlatch sat across from William Wingate on Tuesday in the courtroom of federal judge Richard Jones, a jury in between them.
Until September of last year, Whitlatch was a veteran of the Seattle police department, on the shortlist for promotion to sergeant.
As Wingate faced her in the courtroom, using hearing aids and paying close attention to the proceedings, his attorney Vonda Sargent questioned Whitlatch for hours.
When Whitlatch denied that she had pushed his hand down onto the hot hood of her patrol car on the day of his arrest—it was a warm summer day—Wingate let out a muffled laugh.
Wingate is seeking civil rights damages of $750,000 for the way he was treated in the incident.
In her testimony, Whitlatch stuck to her story: That Wingate struck a stop sign with the golf club that he used as a walking stick. She said he made eye contact and glared angrily at her, although, as Sargent pushed her to acknowledge, Wingate was wearing sunglasses and a hat.
Whitlatch said Wingate was hostile, represented a potential threat to the public, and she thought she might have to use "lethal force" against him.
The former officer's attorneys said Whitlatch is working at a Starbucks barista, but that she expects to get her job back. She is the only officer in the modern history of the Seattle police department to be fired for racial bias.
The Seattle police department's Discipline Review Board hearing for Whitlatch is scheduled to begin January 10, at which time she'll appeal her firing before a three-person body composed of two police officers and one arbitrator. She will argue that the department failed to adhere to a 180-day timeline—a provision written into the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) contract—in its internal investigation into her conduct.
Police chief Kathleen O'Toole is testifying today.