Arizona resident Steven Hildreth Jr.'s Facebook post about being pulled over by Tucson police officers while carrying a concealed weapon is going viral, with readers finding themselves sharply divided along the various social narratives regarding law enforcement and African-Americans.
Hildreth, who possesses a permit to carry a concealed weapon, was pulled over while carrying a Glock pistol. He recounted his civil interaction with Tucson Police Officers Rafael Rodriguez and Anthony Ammon on his Facebook page, where it received more than 600,000 likes and 300,000 shares.
Here's the post in full:
"So, I'm driving to my office to turn in my weekly paperwork. A headlight is out. I see aTucson Police Department squad vehicle turn around and follow me. I'm already preparing for the stop.
The lights go on and I pull over. The officer asks me how I'm doing, and then asks if I have any weapons.
"Yes, sir. I'm a concealed carry permit holder and my weapon is located on my right hip. My wallet is in my back-right pocket."
The officer explains for his safety and mine, he needs to disarm me for the stop. I understand, and I unlock the vehicle. I explain that I'm running a 7TS ALS holster but from the angle, the second officer can't unholster it. Lead officer asks me to step out, and I do so slowly. Officer relieves me of my Glock and compliments the X300U I'm running on it. He also sees my military ID and I tell him I'm with the National Guard.
Lead officer points out my registration card is out of date but he knows my registration is up to date. He goes back to run my license. I know he's got me on at least two infractions. I'm thinking of how to pay them.
Officers return with my Glock in an evidence back, locked and cleared. "Because you were cool with us and didn't give us grief, I'm just going to leave it at a verbal warning. Get that headlight fixed as soon as possible."
I smile. "Thank you, sir."
I'm a black man wearing a hoodie and strapped. According to certain social movements, I shouldn't be alive right now because the police are allegedly out to kill minorities.
Maybe ... just maybe ... that notion is bunk.
Maybe if you treat police officers with respect, they will do the same to you.
Police officers are people, too. By far and large, most are good people and they're not out to get you.
I'd like to thank those two officers and TPD in general for another professional contact.
We talk so much about the bad apples who shouldn't be wearing a badge. I'd like to spread the word about an example of men who earned their badges and exemplify what that badge stands for.
[EDIT: In my rush to post, I accidentally omitted that my wallet was in the back-right pocket, near my firearm. This was the primary motivation for temporary disarmament. The post has been modified to reflect that.
Again, I'd like to thank the TPD and their officers for their consistent professionalism, courtesy, and the good work that they do, both in this particular contact and every day.]
Hildreth was later reunited with the officers, whom he thanked for their courtesy.
"I wanted to be able to shake their hand and say thank you for that so thank you very much sir, thank you very much sir," Hildreth told ABC affiliate KGUN9.
"It's nice to know that there's people out there that appreciate us and know that we are out there being professional, being respectful and law enforcement, that's who we are," said Officer Rafael Rodriguez to KGUN9.
Despite the overall positive response, Hildreth has gotten some backlash.
"The response to the traffic stop post has been overwhelmingly positive. This is good. It shows that people want to hear about the good that law enforcement does.
Of course, you can't please everyone. There has been some backlash.
I've had anarcho-capitalist/libertarian types accuse me of capitulating to a Big Brother police state. Of course, if you see how they fare at traffic stops, you see their supposed "knowledge" of the law actually gets them in trouble. That is the result of cherry-picking parts of the law that confirm their beliefs rather than reading it as a whole.
The biggest backlash has been from the Black Lives Matter movement. This breaks down into two categories.
The first category consists of people who are glad the stop went well, but that insist that I must have gotten lucky, or that I seem to be dismissing instances of criminal activity under color of authority.
These people are generally respectful and level headed. I don't mind them, as I don't mind civil disagreement. Given the sheer volume of comment traffic, I can't respond to them all, but I try my best to engage them in discussion where I can.
The second group is far more vitriolic.
These are the people that are shouting that all or most law enforcement officers are corrupt, that they target minorities who are doing nothing wrong.
They lump cases that are clear cut and dry against the suspect and cases that are generally bad situations all around with cases of legitimate abuse of authority, diluting their own cause.
They perpetuate the statistical lie that police seek to execute minorities with impunity.
They accuse me of not being black because I have dared to question their hive mentality. In a fashion imitating slave masters of days past, they use derogatory terms in an attempt to beat me into submission to the collective.
In the past few days, I have been called a "n*gger" more times by black people than I have by white people in the past twenty years COMBINED.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Worst of all, this second group are the ones telling me to kill myself, saying they hope a cop kills me, and calling for the death of law enforcement.
This second group applauded the death of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder, a black man.
Clearly, this demonstrates that to that second group, not all black lives matter. Only the ones that forward their anti-LE narrative matter to them.
Some in the reasonable first group have distanced themselves from the bigoted second group, and I applaud them for it. Yet, too many remain silent.
I stand for facts. I stand for the truth. I stand for critical, individual thought.
I belong to nobody's collective. I belong to no hive.
For the crime of daring to think to myself, that second group attacks and will continue to attack.
That is why I cannot and will not support Black Lives Matter.
I am all for punishing abuse of police powers to the full extent of the law. Those who betray the public's trust have no place in law enforcement. I acknowledge that abuse exists, as LEOs are human and humans are not infallible. Law enforcement and citizens must remain vigilant in purging the ranks of the bad apples.
That does not change the fact that what I originally said was true: the majority of law enforcement are good people, keeping the peace. I will continue to support them.
I thank those who stand with me in supporting law enforcement. They are, by far and large, good guys in a thankless job.
To the moderates in BLM, I urge you in the strongest possible terms: purge that second group from your ranks. They only damage your cause. I believe if you achieved that, you and I would have more in common than you might think.
Cover photo: Facebook / Steven Hildreth Jr.