WILLIAMS, Ariz. – A California man on vacation with his daughter in Arizona says a state trooper was out of line after pulling him over at gunpoint because the license plate on his rental car was reported stolen.
Ken Walton of San Francisco says the Thursday night incident was overly aggressive and terrifying for him and his 7-year-old daughter. Walton and the girl were driving in northern Arizona with plans to see the Grand Canyon when an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper pulled him over near Williams, about 35 miles east of Flagstaff.
A DPS spokesman said the trooper was following standard procedures.
Walton says the trooper approached the car with his gun drawn without first making commands and at one point pointed the weapon at his daughter, who was sitting in the back seat.
"I think his response as to us was overly aggressive and terrorizing in a way that wasn't necessary to my response to the situation and to my daughter's response," Walton said.
Walton was let go after police found his rental car had the license plate by mistake. It's unclear why the rental car had a license plate that had been reported stolen. The company hasn't returned calls seeking comment.
Walton's Facebook post about the incident has been shared over 8,000 times and has received over 3,000 comments at a time when police around the nation are being scrutinized over claims of excessive force.
The trooper who pulled Walton over was required to have his gun drawn because the stop was considered high risk, said DPS Capt. Damon Cecil, a spokesman.
Cecil said the incident has been blown out of proportion and not analyzed within context.
"Based on experience, DPS unfortunately has gone through the pain of losing a trooper who approached a vehicle who he thought was stolen and killed. You don't know what you're gonna face in these situations. You know that there's definitely a high risk situation here," Cecil said.
Still, Cecil said that the department understands why Walton was upset and scared. He said that the trooper's gun was pointed at the girl but that the trooper hadn't seen her when he approached the vehicle. The trooper is a 7-year veteran of the department with no prior disciplinary action against him, Cecil said.
Walton said whether the trooper meant to point his weapon at his daughter or not is irrelevant. He said he doesn't have plans as of now to file a complaint and said he just wants to put the incident behind him.
"This was a very unfortunate encounter with the officer and the Arizona Department of Public Safety seems to think that they responded in a perfectly appropriate way and I can't see how that's possible," Walton said.