ABC7 photographer Craig Southern and reporter Wayne Freedman were detained by Napa County Sheriff’s deputies while cover a grass fire in Napa’s Silverado Country Club on Wednesday afternoon. Both were stopped at a checkpoint by Sheriff’s deputies where were told to stop taking pictures of the fire from that location.
When Southern and Freedman questioned the officer’s orders, Southern’s camera and tripod was confiscated and cell phone broken. Both were handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car for 15 minutes.
Sheriff’s Department Captain Gene Lyerla later apologized and were both released without being charged.
State law allows the media to report and take pictures from with police lines. ABC7 plans to file a complaint against two deputies and plans to pursue all legal options.
State law 409.5:
KGO story, video and still photos:
From ABC 7 News TV Photographer Craig Southern:
We arrived at fire scene around 3.30. We were stopped and cleared through the first police checkpoint.
A little farther up we encountered a Napa County Sheriff and CHP officer at a second checkpoint. We were asked to pull over while CHP checked to see how much farther we might drive. Meanwhile we interviewed a resident trying to get back to his house. I gathered video while Wayne Freedman talked with Sgt. Perry of Napa Sheriff’s office. He then cleared us to go forward.
Up the road two deputies were standing outside their vehicle (parked on the side) saw us approaching and ordered us back. I stopped the vehicle, backed it up behind squad car and got out. Wayne walked towards deputies on passenger side of vehicle, I went around driver side to get clear view of opposite hillside.
One of the deputies was shouting us back and met me at the front of their vehicle. I put my tripod on the ground to set up and the deputy grabbed my tripod before I could place the camera on it, and carried it away.
I shot video of deputy walking off with tripod and the other deputy said to him “grab his camera, He’s out of here”. I turned to shoot Wayne objecting with the deputy when the other grabbed my camera from behind and forced me into the hood of the squad car.
My left hand was cuffed while my right was holding onto camera and wrestling with officer demanding I drop it.
Wayne saw this happening and started to take pictures with his cell phone. One of the officers told Wayne to step back, and threatened to put him in jail.
He ripped the phone from Wayne’s hand, breaking it in two throwing the top piece onto the street.
Wayne was cuffed and they tried to take his microphone and reporters notebook.
We were placed in squad car and held for a short time and released. No citation, no violation.
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