A family trip to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base ended on a jarring note when the family was pulled over by security forces, handcuffed, and forced to their knees at gunpoint.
Alice Hill, 65, had decided to take a short road trip to the museum with her daughter-in-law, Wendy Hill, 31, and her grandchildren, 8-year-old Aaron and 5-year-old Brooke.
After exploring the exhibit, the family headed back to their car. Before getting into the car, however, Aaron and Alice walked around the parking lot to examine the wide array of license plates, many of which Aaron had never seen before.
That’s when the trouble began. As soon as the family pulled out of the base in their minivan, they were pulled over by security forces pointing guns at them.
Wendy and Alice were ordered out of the car’s front seats at gunpoint and forced to their knees on the street. They were held down forcibly by burly officers.
“My grandchildren are screaming,” Alice recalls of the terrifying encounter. “I mean, they are hysterical, they saw the gun.”
“I felt like I was in Mexico, or someplace third world…where they force someone to their knees before they shoot them in the back of the head,” Alice added.
Wendy remembers wondering if the officers were going to shoot them. She says the scariest moment was when the security forces started treating the van as “full of hostiles”, although it contained only her two young children.
“My 5-year-old daughter is asking, ‘Is grandma going to get shot?” Wendy said.
The family was detained for hours; at one point, they were told that officers believed that the license plates on their car were stolen.
Hours later, they were informed that the real reason for their detainment was that during Aaron and Alice’s walk around the parking lot, someone had called the police on suspicion of car burglary. Having received the call, base officials ran a check of the vehicle’s license plates, which reported the vehicle as stolen and led to the family’s gunpoint pullover.
After the incident, the base commander apologized. In a statement, base officials stated that they “sincerely regret the fact that their enjoyable day at the museum ended with this high-risk traffic stop. Had the vehicle not originally come back as stolen, this situation would have been resolved with a quick courtesy stop of the vehicle to clarify the initial report.”
The base commander also offered to give the children a chance to meet the security forces. The offer, however, seems to be too little, too late.
“My son doesn’t trust police officers now,” Wendy said. “He views them as the bad guy.”