Monthly archives: May 2011

May 31st, 2011

Police Confiscate Cell Phone Cameras After Shooting Unarmed Man On Miami Beach 2

By Carlos Miller

memorial_day_2011_photos_by_carlos_miller_6_of_6.jpg

Minutes after Miami Beach police fired an endless barrage of bullets into an unarmed man over the weekend,  a police officer ran up to a witness who had been recording the incident on his cell phone camera and snatched it from him.

Narces Benoit gave CBS12 the following account:

“He didn’t say nothing. He just snatched me by my head and threw me on the ground and stepped on my back, threw it on the floor, stepped on it and was cussing me out the whole time,” said Benoit.

Benoit said the officer confiscated cell phone cameras from other witnesses as well.

He plans to file a complaint with the Miami Beach Police Department, which will probably go nowhere because the officer in question could have been from any number of neighboring jurisdictions considering Miami Beach spends more than a million dollars to bring in outside officers for the controversial weekend.

As it is right now, they’re releasing very little details, insisting that they’re still trying to piece the story together from the multitude of police agencies involved in the shooting.

In fact, there were two office-involved shootings Monday morning. An hour after the first man was killed, police shot at a second man in a car, but only ended up arresting him.

Police said they shot at both suspects because they were trying to run officers over with their cars.

However, four innocent bystanders were shot during the fist incident, most likely by police gunfire because the suspect ended up not having a gun, even though initial reports stated that he had been shooting out his window while driving.

Three cops were also hospitalized with minor injuries. It is not clear if they were shot by other officers in “friendly fire.” or if they were struck by the vehicle.

Memorial Day Weekend on Miami Beach has been controversial since 2001 when it became the hot spot for thousands of young blacks celebrating Urban Week.

That first year, the revelers took police by surprise, resulting in several shootings and rapes.

Since then, police have increased their presence tenfold that weekend, bringing in hundreds of officers from outside jurisdictions.

That has led to hundreds of arrests each year, but most are for misdemeanors that are eventually dropped.

I was arrested in 2009 for taking pictures of cops, then nearly arrested in 2010 for videotaping cops.

This year, I had no serious run-ins with police, but I ended up trampled upon in a human stampede.

That was a little crazy. At first,  I thought they were running from a shooting, but it turns out, they were most likely running from a snake. Yeah, a snake.

Read all about it in my Miami Beach 411 article.

Below is a video of the shooting recorded by a man from an upstairs apartment.

May 25th, 2011

Joey Boots Harassed, Detained And Cited After Photographing Armed Soldier 0

By Carlos Miller

Videographer provocateur Joey Boots was detained, harassed and eventually ticketed for taking pictures of armed soldiers inside Penn Station in New York City Wednesday.

Boots, who regularly posts entertaining and sometimes confrontational videos of New York City life, including the video of the teenage ballerina in Times Square last year, was cited for interfering with traffic.

But only after Metropolitan Transportation Authority police discovered that photography inside subway stations was not illegal.

It all starts at 1:40 in the video when Boots is attempting to videotape armed soldiers standing near the entrance to the subway station.

A pair of MTA cops confront Boots, calling him a “creep” and accusing him of “harassing” the soldiers.

Then an MTA cop orders Boots to place his camera inside his pocket because it could be a weapon – as if that order would make sense even if he was carrying a weapon.

That exchange takes place at 2:10 in the video when an MTA officer who sounds like Joe Pesci can be heard saying:

“Don’t point that camera at me again I don’t know if it’s a real camera or not … put that thing back in your pocket.”

The video goes dark for the next several minutes because Boots followed his orders, but we can hear the cops trying to give him a guilt trip because he dared videotape soldiers against their wishes, telling him he has no respect for the military.

Boots, who happens to be a veteran himself, spending six years in the army, including a year in Bosnia, told them they had no respect for the law.

At 4:55, Boots pulls the camera out of his pocket, only for the cop to order him to stick the camera back in his pocket again.

At one point, Boots states that there are six cops and five soldiers surrounding him.

The cops then spend the next few minutes contacting their supervisors to see what law Boots violated when he videotaped the soldier.

When they discovered that he had broken no law, they issued him a citation for interfering with traffic, even though that was never brought up the entire time they were harassing him for taking photos.

 

May 24th, 2011

Newspaper Publisher Issued Subpoena Demanding Names Of Online Commenters 0

By Carlos Miller

 

The Maui County District Attorney has issued a subpoena against a newspaper publisher, demanding he hand over indentifying information of online commenters who were critical of a police officer caught in the above video assaulting the publisher.

Maui Time publisher Tommy Russo – who apparently was served the subpoena on Tuesday – was involved in an altercation with the officer last month as well as with a Dog the Bounty Hunter security guard after Russo refused to stop videotaping them.

There is not much information on the web at this point about the subpoena, except an article in the Hawaii Independent that was posted late last night, but if this is true, then the district attorney is overreaching in its investigation because the commenters had nothing to do with the actual incident.

In fact, if the district attorney’s office had any sense of ethics, it would file charges of assault against the police officer as well as charges of assault and theft against the security guard.

The Independent reported that the Association of Alternative Weeklies will be protesting the subpoena, although nothing about that appears on its site at this moment.

Update:

According to Blog of New Orleans, the subpoena seeks to find the identity of one commenter who left the following comment.

nothing new here

 April 15, 2011 | 04:02 AM

the MPD,, the ONLY reason I own a LARGE CALIBRE, high powered rifle.

who needs criminals with this bunch of dog eating public menances running around.

Johnson needs a bullet when he walks out his door.

Federal Reserve

As a guy who has been running this blog for more than four years, I’ve seen a fair share of bravado-laden comments, which come from people talking out of their asses.

This is no different. The real crimes were caught on camera. How come they are not being prosecuted?

May 24th, 2011

D.C. Metro Police Creating Stories To Justify Body Slamming Disabled Man 0

By Carlos Miller

It’s been nearly a week since a Youtube video exposed two Metro Transit Police officers picking up a man from a wheelchair and slamming him facedown on the ground for allegedly drinking alcohol outside a Washington D.C. Metro station.

But the police brass still says they see nothing wrong with this behavior, allowing the police to continue their duties.

In fact, they are claiming that that 55-year-old Dwight Harris fell out of his wheelchair on his own, suffering only minor injuries, even though the video shows him lying in a pool of blood and a follow-up news video shows he received a black eye and several stitches.

Here is the police account of what took place last Saturday, according to a press release obtained by Cop Block.

On Thursday, May 19, the Metro Transit Police on routine patrol at the U St. Metrorail station observed a patron in a wheelchair drinking an alcoholic beverage. The officers asked the patron to leave the area and he refused. The officers then attempted to issue the patron a citation and when the patron refused to comply with the issuance of a citation he was told that he would be placed under arrest. The patron resisted arrest which resulted in him falling out of his wheelchair. The patron was arrested for assault on a police officer and drinking in public. The patron was transported to a local hospital with a minor injury. Metro Transit Police are following up on this report.

The video does not show where Harris assaulted the officers, but, of course, police will argue that it took place before the video started rolling. And it doesn’t show where he resisted arrest either.

However, considering the man is unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair, it is unlikely that he did either.

We all know that in many cases where cops accuse a citizen of assault, it’s merely a case of contempt of cop, which is not illegal.

Police say they were trying to issue him a citation for drinking alcohol in public and it went downhill from there.

One witness said police were ordering him to stand, which Harris is unable to do, which led to them body slamming him.

It is not clear who shot the video, but at least one other man was arrested for questioning the aggressive behavior of police, according to WUSA9.com

 “His whole face is just leaking, it’s everywhere…And then I look again. He’s got handcuffs on. I’m like, ‘What are y’all doing? What’s going on?’” says witness Lawrence Miller.

When Miller tried to help the wheelchair-bound man, he says Metro Transit Police threatened and ultimately arrested him.

DC Councilman Jim Graham saw the video and demanded an investigation. Police say they will look into it and reveal their findings within ten days.

May 19th, 2011

Man Told He Is Guilty Of Felony For Videotaping Whale 0

By Carlos Miller

Hans Welch responded to a call for volunteers from the Marine Mammal Conservancy where they needed help with pilot whales that had been stranded off the Florida Keys.

At one point last Saturday morning, the Miami resident was in the water holding the pectoral fin of a stranded whale.

It was obviously a very unique experience, so he pulled out his waterproof camera and began recording.

A doctor from the Marine Mammal Conservancy immediately confiscated his camera, handing it to a woman on shore who deleted his footage.

The woman then berated him from having using the camera, informing him that “electronic pulses” from the camera endanger the whales.

Welch, who unsuccessfully tried to recover the deleted footage, was upset because at no point during the orientation did they tell him he was not allowed to use his camera.

It is also not mentioned on its website, even though they make other specifications regarding volunteering.

Welch ended up emailing a complaint to the director of the conservancy, who told Welch that he was, in fact, violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which is a felony.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act is bogged down in legalese but it appears that there is some type of permit process for the photography of wild sea mammals.

According to Section 104 (6):

 (6) A permit may be issued for photography for educational or commercial purposes involving marine mammals in the wild only to an applicant which submits with its permit application information indicating that the taking will be limited to Level B harassment, and the manner in which the products of such activities will be made available to the public.

Level B Harassment is described as:

 (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered.

I’m really not clear on whether the photographing of these animals is legal or not, but Marine Mammal Conservancy’s website includes photos, which indicates that they were issued a permit.

And I would imagine that permit would cover their volunteers.

Regardless if it is illegal to videotape a whale without a permit, it is clearly a crime to snatch someone’s camera and delete their footage without their consent.

I’ve included a copy of the email Welch wrote to the director as well as his response.

I’m sorry that this email couldn’t have been under better terms, but I feel the need to relay to you the events that unfolded last Saturday, May 14, 2011.

I arrived at 3:45AM for the 4AM-8AM volunteer shift. I went through the brief orientation, and then got suited up. I waited on the beach area while the first shift took their positions. I finally got into the water around 6AM, on whale 300. My girlfriend had been in the water since 5AM on one of the calves.

Around 6:45, when the light started coming out, I took out my waterproof video camera and I took about 15 seconds of footage of myself and my girlfriend in the water holding the whales. The couple next to me offered to take some footage of me holding the whale, and while doing so, Dana (I believe that was his name, one of the doctors) got upset and requested my camera. I told him I would turn it off and put it away, and he told me, “No.” He wanted my camera.

Being that I was still holding the whale, I had no choice but to let him take my camera, or drop the whale. About 5 minutes later, my girlfriend was relieved from her position, and I told her to get my camera whom Dana had given to the lady recording the data (I don’t know her name). At first she refused to give the camera, but then she told my girlfriend that she could have the camera back but that I had to speak with her when I got out of the water.

About 5 minutes later, I was relieved from my position, and upon exiting the water, she told me to come talk to her. She asked me if Dana explained the severity of my actions. I said he had not. She explained to me that (1) I was in the water to hold the whale, not take pictures and that if I was taking pictures, I was not holding the whale. I find this to be a little presumptuous as often during holding the whale I was required to cup water onto the top of the whale, using only one hand to hold the whale, the same way I used one hand to hold my pocket camera. Then she said that the “electronic pulses” from the camera probably causes massive damage to the whales and that I put their health at serious risk.

Again I find this hard to believe with everyone using cell phones, and the whales getting tracking tags on them, not to mention the various pictures of the whales that are posted on the web site. I did not argue, but simply stated that I wasn’t trying to break any rules, but no one had stated that photography wasn’t allowed.

After showering and dressing, I looked at my camera and noticed that my footage had been deleted. I was extremely upset at this. As I explained to the woman, at no time during or after the orientation did they stress that photography was not allowed. I even shut the camera off when Dana got upset.

Even if photography wasn’t allowed, I turned my camera off when asked. The staff had no right to (1) confiscate my camera and (2) invade my privacy and go into my videos (3) and delete anything on my camera. This is against the law and constitutes violations of my 4th Amendment rights (illegal seizures) and theft (deleting of private property). I did not lodge a formal complaint with the police, but I am doing so now with you, the director of operations.

The attitude of some of the staff there is completely disgraceful. The way the talked to us and others was very demeaning. My girlfriend witness Dana telling an older gentleman, “You see, YOU’RE THE PROBLEM” when the gentleman was stating he was having a little bit of a problem keeping the whale from moving. We are volunteers. We’re giving up our own time and resources to help a good cause. But the attitude and harassment of some of your staff left us with a bitter taste. The couple that I was holding the whale with had some family members on the beach taking photos of them in the water. They were told to leave as well and not take pictures. While we are here trying to help these whales, some of us would like to document our experience. And like stated before, never was I informed that photography was not allowed.

I realize that some of the staff may have been out for several shifts, and were probably tired, and cold, and hungry, but I suggest you talk with your staff about the rights that people have, and that they should not be violated. We should treat each other with a mutual respect and not deprive others of our basic civil liberties.

Sincerely,

Hans Welch

Here is the response from the director:

Dear Mr. Welsh,

My staff is tired as they work very long hours here but that is no excuse. I do have to say that cameras around the whales are strictly prohibited, it is part of the briefing, it is on signs leading to the area where the whales are at and it is told to everyone beforehand when they schedule a shift that no cameras are allowed past the fence/tape barriers.

By sneaking your camera into the water you not only placed yourself in danger but the volunteers and staff in the water with you. When pictures are taken (and they are taken by personnel with a lot of training and expertise) a staff member is on each animal to insure not only the volunteers safety but those of the photographers as well.

Pilot whales are known to spook easily and they are sensitive to sounds far beyond human hearing. If I had seen you with the camera, you would have been removed from the site period.

We appreciate our volunteers and we know you want pictures of your experience. You are welcome to take pictures from beyond the barriers only and you are also welcome to download for free those professional photographs on our website and Facebook page.

Knowing Dana and the years of training and experience he has as a volunteer supervisor with me, I doubt very seriously that he stated what you said in those terms, but I will address this with him when he returns.

If you cannot follow the rules here, please do not volunteer again, this is not a swim program nor a petting pool, volunteers are here to help us do some serious work with some seriously compromised wild and dangerous marine mammals.

Additionally, by taking your camera in the water you are in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and can be charged with a felony. I would prefer to leave things stand where they are, so should you.

Robert G Lingenfelser Jr

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