Monday, May 20, 2024

The Story Behind the Latest Viral Video Showing A Black Man’s Arrest

When it comes to law enforcement shenanigans caught on video, once exposed, the police always want to tell the viewing public not to rush to judgment because videos don’t tell the whole story.

In the case of 31-year-old Walter Buchanan you don’t need to see much more than what was captured on video to understand that something definitely ain’t right. But what the video doesn’t tell you is what happened before the record button was pushed and what happened afterwards. That’s what you have me for. So let’s get to it.

Last Tuesday Walter Buchanan did what many of us even on our best day would never do. He made the agonizing decision to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles—without an appointment. I know, I know—but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Walter was headed out of Los Angeles and didn’t want to drive long distance on a suspended driver license—makes sense. So he figured that he’d pop into the Hollywood (CA) DMV and pay the fine to have the suspension lifted on his license and be on his merry way.

First of all, as anyone who has ever gone to the DMV knows, there’s no such thing as popping into the DMV as Walter soon found out.

His number was C132 and it would be hours before that number was called. Walter fell asleep waiting. It happens.

When he awoke and saw that his number had been called he ran to the window to tell the clerk that he was C132—by this time they were on C135. The clerk told him he missed his opportunity. Walter went to the information window and explained the situation to a supervisor who assured him that he would be seen next by that same clerk and to go back over there and wait.

“So I walked back around and he was still helping another gentleman so I sat down and waited,” Walter explained to me. “I noticed he was even giving the gentlemen a hard time. I was like dang this dude is really rude. He doesn’t have any customer service tack about himself at all. So when I got up to the window he asked me what I needed to do. I told him that I needed to pay my fine so that I could lift the suspension. It would really be simple. He asked me for my ID. I gave him my ID. He ran it under the barcode thing and printed out a paper. And in the process of him printing it out his words to me exactly were ‘next time you come to the DMV—’ and I cut him short and told him that I didn’t come in here for a lecture.”

Now why did Walter do that? No shade to DMV workers but everyone knows DMV workers have a reputation second only to postal employees and it’s not for stellar customer service. The clerk in question was no exception to the rule as Walter soon found out.

Walter said the clerk got up and left and went and just stood by a table watching him wait on him.

“I thought he was going to do something but he wasn’t. He was just standing there.”

Walter admits that by now his patience had worn thin and that he did get as he said “a little belligerent” and called the worker out of his name.

“I didn’t appreciate the fact that he was playing with me and my time. I had been there so long. I called him a bitch.”

The clerk eventually went to where the California Highway Patrol officers are in the DMV and from there you already know.

Walter, not wanting any problems says that he told the clerk that he just wanted his ID and he was going to leave.

By then the CHP had walked over to Walter and told him that he had to leave. The CHP wanted Walter to leave without his ID that he’d initially given the clerk. Fortunately a DMV supervisor walked over and handed Walter his ID back.

As he was exiting the DMV, the CHP officers followed him and demanded that Walter give them his ID.

“As I am walking out the DMV they’re still harassing me and it was about ten seconds after that the video on the Internet captures what happened.”

The two-minute video making its way around the Internet shows Walter being stopped from leaving the DMV by two CHP officers, one of which demands Walter’s ID.

“I’m not on parole, I’m not on probation. It’s right here in your face,” says an irritated Walter showing the officer his ID.

That response is met with the officers deciding to arrest him and a bit of tussling as Walter continues to loudly ask what he’s done wrong. At one point Walter gives out the number to his mother and asks someone to please call her. Smart.

Eventually the LAPD arrives on the scene. Walter says the LAPD officers told the CHP that they wouldn’t take him downtown to the jail and that the CHP needed to cite him out and let him go because he hadn’t done anything.

The CHP decided to go through with the arrest anyway and they took Walter downtown to the Inmate Reception Center better known as IRC to be booked. That was last Tuesday and Walter didn’t get out of jail until two days later but only after he agreed to plead to an infraction of disturbing the peace.

Walter says that he made that plea under duress because he needed to get home to his girlfriend who is due any day now and their three children.

“I did it because I wanted to get out jail,” Walter explained. “I didn’t have bail money. I didn’t know anyone willing to bail me out. I tried to tell my public defender I was taking the plea deal under duress. I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t have any type of help or anyone around me of any assistance. I’ve been to prison a couple of times in my life and I know that just based on my record it didn’t look good and I was afraid they were going to send me back to prison for a few years and I hadn’t done anything. I was just really eager to get away from there.”

A native of L.A.’s west side, Walter says that he was already moving out of Los Angeles because he was having a lot of problems with officers in the Wilshire Division of the LAPD.

“Because of my past life and what they believe I am doing they are harassing me with my girl and with my children pulling us over. They’re always trying to get an F.I. card on me. They’re trying to force me into gang files. No matter where I’m at they’re pulling guns on me. And so with this, I was just afraid that once Officer Boyle and those few officers in Wilshire Division who know me and are always after me—once they got wind of it—I was afraid that there would be a time when I would get pulled over and there would not be someone with a video or there would not be anyone there to advocate for me and I just don’t want any trouble.”

Walter finally made it out of the city upon his release from jail. He’s currently looking to pursue legal action against the CHP for what happened to him. As he should.

Jasmyne Cannick
Jasmyne A. Cannick

Selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, KCET’s Southern California Seven Women of Vision, one of the Most Influential African-Americans in Los Angeles Under 40, one of Los Angeles’ Most Fascinating Angelenos by the L.A. Weekly and most recently one of 40 People Under 40 by the Advocate Magazine,  Jasmyne Cannick is an award winning journalist and best known as a frequent on-air contributor on the intersection of pop culture, politics and race. Find her at

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