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Officer involved in arrest of elderly black man holding golf club fired

SEATTLE -- A Seattle Police officer who was under investigation after video surfaced of her arresting a 69-year-old man who refused to drop a golf club he was carrying on a city sidewalk has been fired, reports CBS affiliate KIRO-TV.

A video of the July 2014 encounter was recorded by the patrol car's dashboard camera and released by the Seattle Police Department in January.

The video showed officer Cynthia Whitlatch pulling her cruiser up to a corner where the man, William Wingate, was standing, and yelling at him to drop the golf club.

She told him he had swung it at her, and that audio and video recordings from her cruiser would back up her allegations.

Wingate, who is now 70, appeared surprised in the video, seemed to have trouble hearing the officer, and then insisted he had done no such thing. He said he had used the golf club as a cane for 20 years.

Wingate was eventually convicted of unlawfully using a weapon under a plea deal in which the charge would be dismissed if he had no other offenses for two years. It was the first time he had been arrested. The charges against Wingate were later dismissed, but several other behavioral complaints about Whitlatch surfaced including one based on racially-charged Facebook posts.

Facebook post from Seattle officer. CBS News

No recordings surfaced to bolster Whitlach's version of events, and after a state lawmaker questioned the arrest, the city attorney's office took another look. Prosecutors dismissed the conviction, and the police department apologized for the arrest and returned his golf club. The department said in January the officer had "received counseling" from her supervisor -- which O'Toole initially deemed an appropriate resolution.

Seattle police apologize for arresting elderly man with a golf club 00:59

But then the chief became aware of troubling Facebook posts made by Whitlatch about a month after the arrest -- at a time when protests in Ferguson, Missouri, had gripped the nation's attention. The weekly newspaper The Stranger reported that Whitlatch said she was tired of "black peoples (sic) paranoia" and wrote of "chronic black racism that far exceeds any white racism in this country."

CBS affiliate KIRO reports that Whitlatch was removed from patrol in January. And was fired on Tuesday because she failed to understand how her behavior was "unnecessarily aggressive," the chief said.

"I was disappointed by your failure ... to take any responsibility, or show any understanding that your conduct at issue here was inappropriate," Chief Kathleen O'Toole wrote in Whitlatch's disciplinary action report.

KIRO reports that Whitlatch expressed a strong belief that the disciplinary actions against her were done because key people involved in the case were black.

William Wingate said in May he was suing the city after his questionable arrest. CBS affiliate KIRO

"Your inability to understand, even in hindsight, that your behavior was unnecessarily aggressive, an abuse of discretion, and negatively impacted the community's confidence in this police service, offers me no pathway to understand how you can improve and do better," O'Toole wrote.

KIRO reports that Wingate said he believes the arrest was racially motivated.

"If you're capable of doing this to me in broad daylight and it's on video, what would you do at night, when nobody's around?" Wingate said earlier this year.

Wingate said in May he was suing the city.

"Most of the policemen are good people," he said. "But you've got rotten apples in all professions. She is a rotten apple. And the police department knows she's a rotten apple. Why do they keep covering up for her?"

City Council President Tim Burgess released a statement after Whitlatch was fired.

"The Chief of Police has sent a strong and appropriate signal. Officer behavior that compromises public trust is not acceptable in Seattle," he wrote in part. "When the Council confirmed Chief O'Toole last year, we expected her to set a high bar for our officers. Since that time, Chief O'Toole has taken strong measures to create culture of effective and constitutional policing and to restore pride within the department."

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