Air Force apologizes to family after armed traffic stop
By Laura A. Bischoff and Clint Davis | Dayton (Ohio) Daily News | Published: April 10, 2014
A Columbus, Ohio, family said their children were traumatized after what was meant to be a fun trip to the National Museum of the United States Air Force ended with guns drawn on them.
Alice Hill, 65, her daughter-in-law, Wendy, and two young grandchildren visited the museum on April 4 and, as they were leaving, were ordered to get out of their vehicle by military police. Hill said the officers pulled guns on the family and cuffed the adults in front of the children, according to an incident report
"I never in my life thought somebody would pull a gun on me, especially a cop," said Alice Hill, a grandmother of seven.
Initial reports indicated the van had been reported stolen so security forces executed a "high-risk traffic stop," Wright-Patterson Air Force Base officials said in a written statement.
The family was detained for about 90 minutes as authorities sorted through questions about whether the van was stolen — it wasn't — and whether they were casing cars in the lot — they weren't.
Wright-Patterson security officials said the incident turned out to be a misunderstanding; they thought family members were riding in a stolen vehicle.
"An initial check of the vehicle plates with the National Law Enforcement Terminal System reported the vehicle as stolen," according to a base statement Tuesday. "Security forces responded as trained, and executed high-risk traffic stop procedures. Further investigation of the full vehicle information number revealed the vehicle was not stolen."
A witness had called security to report that the family was acting suspiciously, peering into various cars in the museum's parking lot. Hill told police she and her 8-year-old grandson Aaron were checking out license plates around the lot to see how far some visitors had traveled.
"My son was excited to see different state license plates, especially the Alaska plate he saw on the way in," 31-year-old Wendy Hill told police. "We drove the lot to see if he missed any before we left to go home. That was when we were stopped."
Base officials have since apologized to the family.
"We sincerely regret the fact that their enjoyable day at the museum ended with this high-risk traffic stop," their statement read. "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."
Wright-Patterson officials said they conveyed directly to the Hill family their sincere regrets that the museum visit ended with the traffic stop and noted that procedures were being followed in accordance with a report of a stolen vehicle.
Alice Hill said authorities have not reached out with an apology, and she had difficulty getting a copy of the police report.
The family made a stop at the Air Force Museum while on spring break and otherwise had a great time visiting the museum, Alice Hill said.
When asked if the family would return to the museum, Ryan Hill — father of the children — said, "Hell no."