A San Francisco father and his 7-year-old daughter traveling through the southwest were allegedly held at gunpoint on Aug. 12 by an Arizona highway patrol officer.
Ken Walton recounted the terrifying ordeal in a lengthy Facebook post, detailing the moment Officer Oton Villegas stopped his Las Vegas rental car while en route to the Grand Canyon.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
The post published in the early hours of Friday morning has since been shared over 8,000 times.
According to Walton, Villegas was following him for several miles before he was pulled over in Williams—for what he initially thought was a “broken taillight or something.” Villegas approached his car and knocked on the passenger’s 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 wrote. “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.”
Once Walton was able to get the passenger window down, Walton said he was ordered to exit the vehicle, face away from the officer and prepare to be taken into custody.
“Then, as I had my hands in the air, he yelled, at the top of his lungs, in a voice I will never forget, as my daughter looked on in terror, ‘Get your hands away from your waist, or I’ll blow two holes through your back right now!,'” wrote Walton.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is standing behind the action of Villegas.
“The bottom line is, our trooper did everything correctly,” state DPS Capt. Damon Cecil told the Arizona Daily Sun.
“Because he was alone and this was a high-risk situation, of course he had his gun drawn,” Cecil said. “He was getting no compliance and no response from Mr. Walton to his commands to shut off the vehicle.”
According to Cecil, The Fox Car Rental in Las Vegas is to blame for the harrowing incident. When Villegas ran the car’s license plate in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, the car came back as stolen, due to an error by the rental company.
“It was a horrible situation that didn’t need to happen and, thankfully, it didn’t turn tragic,” Cecil said. “Honestly, if things were done right when that stolen license plate was reported and the rental company had replaced the license plates for that vehicle as they should have, this would have never happened.”
Walton doesn’t intend to take legal action against the department.