Black driver's Facebook message: 'Every cop is NOT out to shoot black people!'
Editor's note: Timothy R. Ballenger Sr. was stopped by Hoffman Estates police for speeding at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 28. A large black man, legally carrying a gun, he shared what happened on Facebook, ending with this message: "Every cop is NOT out to Shoot Black People!" His post drew more than 5,000 shares, 800 comments and 16,000 likes. The Daily Herald asked Ballenger, 49, a bus driver and operations supervisor for Van Galder/Coach USA in Janesville, Wisconsin, to write about the feedback he's received. Formerly of Streamwood, he lives in Poplar Grove with his wife, Stephanie.
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My evening was full.
Memorial for my friend and co-worker Gary Fink in Janesville, Wisconsin, then on to Chicago for a 50th birthday party for three classmates. Great night with Da Momma (my wife) and friends.
Then ... The Ride Back.
We live two hours away so we were staying at a hotel in Elgin. While driving on I-290, Da Momma decided she wanted some ice cream. So at 1:30 a.m., what's a husband to do but find some ice cream!
We get off on Higgins Road and come up to a Wendy's ... closed. McDonald's ... closed. Starting to get frustrated. It's been a long day and I just wanted to get back to the hotel.
I knew there was a McDonald's near Barrington Road. As I enter Hoffman Estates, I see two police SUVs parked with the lights off. As I pass them, one of them turn his lights on. Then I look down. I'm doing 55 mph. I look up again, and the speed limit is 40! Not Good.
So I immediately pull over. Then the officer pulls up behind me and turns on his Reds and Blues. I'm like, "OK. Hoffman Estates had a bad reputation with blacks years ago back in the late '90s, early 2000s. It's the middle of the night, on a dark road, I'm a black man with a gun."
I look at my wife. "You just had to have some ice cream, didn't you?"
So I get my credentials ready. License. Proof of insurance. Concealed carry license. Young man walks up to my window.
"I assume you know why I pulled you over?"
"Yes, officer, I didn't realize I was going that fast. This Buick is really smooth."
"Where are you headed?"
"Honestly, to get Da Momma some ice cream. We are staying at a hotel in Elgin and was passing through looking for a McDonald's or something open."
Then I pass him my IDs.
"OK, sir, I'll be right with you."
So he took my credentials and sat in his vehicle. I'm thinking about how bad is this going to affect my Commercial Driver's License and my auto insurance -- 15 miles over doesn't look too good with a CDL.
Now he's walking back toward me along with another officer. TWO white cops now. In Hoffman Estates! And I'm carrying!
Da Momma is like, "Oh boy. Here we go." I said, "Calm down, momma. They know I'm carrying and we live in some Strange Times right now where cops are being shot at for being cops! I'm sure it's just a precaution."
The young man says, "Well sir, first, I want to thank you for letting me know about the firearm. I'm gonna let you go with a verbal warning. Please drive safe and get the lady some ice cream!"
THANK YOU SIR!!! I'm TOO excited! I kept a cool head, and NO TICKET!
We drove off and ended up at the Burger King on Higgins and Barrington roads for ice cream and warm cookies! Night ended great!
A couple of days later, I decided to post on my Facebook page my experience with the Hoffman Estates Police Department. My main goal was to let my friends and family know that it's OK to trust law enforcement. Their jobs are dangerous, ESPECIALLY during these Strange Times.
Protest everywhere, dozens of people killed every week in my hometown of Chicago, cops being ambushed. Just Strange Times.
Well, my post went VIRAL! Over 16,000 likes, 5,000 shares and 800 comments!
A few quirks chimed in. "You Must Be A Cop" or, "This Story Is Fake!" One guy called me a "Copycat" 'cause there was a similar story with a black man with a gun on a motorcycle.
But then, I was contacted by the Hoffman Estates Police Department who tracked down the officer after hearing my story. Turns out he's a rookie!
EVEN BETTER, 'cause THAT means that it's in their training to treat all people with respect!
The officer's brother, who is also a cop, contacted me as well to let me know how proud he was of his younger brother, and to THANK me for getting the story out.
Sgt. Mark Mueller, who is in charge of community relations, contacted me and also thanked me for my post. He also offered me a ride-along with an officer if I wanted. NICE!!!
I want to take him up on that! I hope I can drive! I wonder, do they have 5 XL uniforms?
Anyway, the response I have received from the post was 99 percent positive! Lots of other officers thanked me, family members of officers, and even retired law enforcement LOVED the post!
My message ... PEACE and Respect.
My father, Pastor C.F. Ballenger, used to sing a song.
"If I Can Help Somebody, My Living Has Not Been In Vain."