Congressional candidate Wineberry files police complaint after feeling threatened at traffic stop

Democratic congressional candidate Jesse Wineberry (right) at a press conference Thursday with Republican congressional candidate Doug Basler (left) who backed up Wineberry's version of what was said in the Seattle Times editorial board interview. (Photo by John Stang.)
Democratic congressional candidate Jesse Wineberry (right) at a press conference Thursday with Republican congressional candidate Doug Basler (left) who backed up Wineberry’s version of what was said in the Seattle Times editorial board interview. (Photo by John Stang.)

Congressional candidate Jesse Wineberry says Seattle police officers escalated a traffic stop in his campaign van to a point where he felt his life was in danger, and has asked the city to investigate.

Wineberry, who is black, said at a press conference Thursday that the stop brought to mind the fatal police shootings of Che Taylor in Seattle earlier this year and of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO in 2014, and of Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in Florida in 2012.

“Literally, a chill went through my spine,” Wineberry said.

Wineberry, a businessman who served parts of Seattle in the Washington House of Representatives from 1984 to 1994, also said at the press conference that a Seattle Times editorial mischaracterized his statements to make him sound like he was questioning incumbent Congressman Adam Smith’s ability to represent Washington’s Ninth District because Smith is white. Wineberry says he did not say that, and the Times since posted a correction.

Wineberry, 61, is challenging fellow Democrat Smith for his seat in the congressional Ninth District.

Smith, a 10-term incumbent, is also being challenged by Republican Doug Basler, Democrat Daniel Smith and independent Jeary Flener. The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary will proceed to the general election in November, regardless of party.

Wineberry says Adam Smith’s lack of passed legislation and absentee record from votes are the reasons that about 30 King County clergymen drafted him to run for office.

Wineberry was in a minivan rented through his campaign during the traffic stop where he contends officers overreacted with threatening words. Wineberry and the rental company, E-Z Rent A Car in SeaTac, both attest the initial stop was caused by a misunderstanding.

Wineberry says his campaign had rented the van for a week and campaign staff had intended to renew the rental agreement, but had not done so before company reported the minivan stolen. (A day after the traffic stop, Wineberry cleared the matter up with the rental company.)

The rental agency’s manager wrote a letter affirming Wineberry’s account, which was distributed to the press on Thursday.

“It was clear to me that this was a misunderstanding and he did not intend to steal our vehicle. … Typically, when we report a non-return vehicle, the customer is put on our ‘Do Not Rent’ list. In this case, we would welcome Rep. Wineberry’s business in the future,” wrote the rental agency’s general manager David Gundel.

On July 20 at about 8:30 p.m. police pulled over Wineberry in the minivan.

Wineberry said he has no problem with being pulled over because of the van rental mix-up, but he said police officers  — one black and the rest white — then surrounded him and cuffed his hands behind his back.

“I was protesting the way they were treating someone like me,” Wineberry said.

Despite his own hands cuffed behind his back, Wineberry said one officer said: “Get your hands off my gun belt.”

Wineberry called that phrase “code” to allow officers to escalate the situation, up to possibly shooting him.

“It was code for justified use of force, including shooting … I saw Trayvon flash. I saw Michael flash. I saw Che Taylor flash,” Wineberry said.

Officers took Wineberry to the South Precinct station. There, a sergeant talked to him and agreed that a misunderstanding with the rental agency led to the police stopping the minivan. Police released Wineberry without booking him at about 11:30 p.m.

Seattle’s Office of Professional Accountability confirmed Thursday that it received Wineberry’s complaint. Such a complaint takes 60 to 180 days to investigate.

On Thursday, Wineberry also criticized a July 14 Seattle Times editorial that portrayed him as saying in an editorial board interview session that Adam Smith could not represent the multiracial Ninth District as adequately as someone who was black could. Wineberry contended he never said such a thing.

“In one (editorial) sentence, I’d been branded as a wild-eyed racist,” Wineberry said.

Republican congressional candidate Doug Basler who was at the same interview session, also came to the press conference and agreed that Wineberry was mischaracterized.

The Times editorial page editor Kate Riley said the first time she heard about Wineberry’s concern was Wednesday. She checked the tape of the July 14 interview session, and agreed that Wineberry was misrepresented in the editorial. The Times added a correction to that editorial on Wednesday.

Wineberry said since the July 14 editorial, he and his campaign have been hit with an upswing in harassment, including one racist phone call to his election headquarters and increased sign vandalism. Wineberry said he couldn’t prove a definite connection between the editorial and the harassment, but noted the timing.


  1. watch the video from the police dash cams and you will see that his claims are entirely false and that he escalated a situation that could have been cleared up in five minutes, not the police. We all know politicians lie by trade, but we should not elect people with this level of blatant dishonesty.

  2. This would have been so diferant if he would have just complied with the officers from the beginning. He clearly used his race as a brick wall to a use the officers of being racist. He clearly used the fraise UT to one officer than denied saying it. If he would have just comied with the officers in the first place this would not have went the way it did. Instead he chose to be offended. How simple would it have been to follow police procedures and after it was cleared up thanked them for just doing their job. He then would have looked like a respectable politician than someone choosing to be a rebeliace person.

  3. Racial profiling is a reality at some departments and with some police officers. That said, the officers confirmed the plates as belonging to a vehicle the rental agency had reported as stolen. Mr. Wineberry did not immediately comply to commands and, once out of the vehicle, became argumentative. Add to that the fact that a bystander injected himself into the situation, and that the recent assassinations of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge would have these officers on edge, and it appears they acted professionally and extended him at least the same degree of patience, if not more, than many whites would have received under the same circumstances (admittedly an assumption, but one based on personal experience).

    I would be interested to know what he was doing in the parking lot of ‘Showgirls’ and ‘Dreamgirls at SoDo’ though.

  4. No one with this amount of ignorance should be allowed to serve in any elected capacity. He was obviously not seeking a solution to the problem, but causing further problems. That kind of false drama isn’t the way to solve problems in this country, but only to escalate problems and cause more.
    I saw Trayvon flash. I saw Michael flash. I saw Che Taylor flash,” Wineberry said. Oh, My. The drama. (Eye roll.) I’ve seen fifth graders with more maturity.

  5. What is so sad in reading these comments is why this nation is so divided on ethnicity, most people of color have an inbred fear and concern about the tactics of law enforcement. Without understanding that perspective it is, as it appears to be in this comment section impossible to understand the angst of minorities when being simply followed, let alone stopped, by the police. Its easy to mistake these comments as biased. IMHO they are founded on ignorance. Until all of us understand why old white women move the back of an elevator when young black men get on that elevator, we will continue to pre-judge from our own racial ignorance the actions of others when faced with what they see as a concern for racial security. Let’s move forward people not backwards. Well done “Globalist” this is the first “unbiased” article I have seen on this incident.

    1. Not inbred, but taught, the reality of the situation is, Wineberry made the entire situation worse for himself by his own actions. It had nothing to do with his skin color until he tried to make that part of the issue.

    2. Do you honestly think that police spot a stolen vehicle, then decline to pull it over because the driver is white?
      Do you think the race of Wineberry was even slightly involved in the fact that the van was stopped for being stolen?

  6. What a complete load of bunk.
    He was not “racially profiled” nor was he unduly harassed or assaulted in any way.
    He was stopped for driving a stolen vehicle, and then became belligerent and attempted to drive away from the stop, then refused to step out of the van after ~10 orders.
    This entire incident was completely his fault, and the fact that he immediately blames racism shows where his mind is at.

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