RICHLAND,WA- A Tri-Cities business owner is still trying to recover after he was pulled over and detained early Sunday morning by police after being mistaken for a shooting suspect.
Joe Thornton, the owner of The Biz Talk Magazine was returning to his apartment in Richland after picking up Taco Bell. As he was pulling into the complex he was pulled over by Benton County Sheriff Officers.
"I'm hearing more cars sirens and everything else showing up and I am still confused, I didn’t know what I did and I didn’t know why so many cops were warranted to this call," said Thornton.
Several more police vehicles responded to the scene including Kennewick Police. Thornton was then told to step out of his car with his hands up and walk towards officers who had their guns drawn.
"I just started praying and I am not going to sugarcoat it I am a God fearing man, I started praying," said Thornton. "I started asking God to just get me through this moment get me through tonight, I asked God to put a hand on whoever had the finger on the trigger."
Thornton was detained and put in a police car without being told why he was being detained. According to the Kennewick Police Department that is the protocol in situations when police are engaging in a high risk stop. The high risk stop in this case was because according to police Thornton's red Dodge Charger matched a description from a drive-by shooting that occurred Saturday night.
"We have to make sure that the scene is completely safe or as safe as you can make it before you go into investigative mode that is for the safety and security for everybody involved," said Lt. Aaron Clem.
Lt. Clem also noted that the reason they had Thornton walk to them instead of approaching his car was for his safety and theirs. According to Lt. Clem, the distance gives officers more time to react to any potential reaction from a person in question so that it protects both parties involved.
"We are providing ourselves with more time and more distance to see what is happening and react to that so we can make a better choice," said Lt. Clem. "If we are too close then that time and that distance is narrowed and they don’t have as much time to make that decision."
Thornton was later released because he was the not the person police was looking for. Thornton is now hesitant to leave his apartment. He has returned stickers of his business to the side of his car to make it stand out and is even considering painting his car a different color so something like this doesn't happen again.
"It was traumatizing to not know if you were going to see your daughter the next day, not know if you are going to live to see the next night," said Thornton.
Thornton credits his degree in criminal justice and knowing his rights to keeping himself alive. Since the incident, he has considered getting a masters in political science so he can make a change and prevent similar situations such as these from happening to anyone.
"I can’t sleep at night so people that think that I wanted this just for self gain that’s nonsense I didn’t want this, I don’t want this," said Thornton. "It’s almost like a burden and it feels like it and my pastor told me this is not a burden on you Joe, He is calling you to deliver a message and that’s exactly what I am going to do."