Photos by David Proeber of The Pantagraph

Remember those dramatic photos of a police chase in Illinois where a gun-wielding man jumped out of a car with a cigarette dangling from his mouth in early January, only to be shot down by police?

It turns out, police had confiscated the photographer’s memory card after the incident, threatening David Proeber with arrest if he refused their orders.

Proeber, photo editor of The Pantagraph newspaper in central Illinois, provided a first person account of the incident in this month’s News Photographer magazine of how his Constitutional right were trampled on by the McLean County Sheriff’s Department, the Normal Police Department and the Illinois State Police (the article is not online, but I receive a subscription).

Proeber at first refused their demands, but then they started placing his hands behind his back, so he figured they would take the photos anyway. This is how he describes his thought process at the time:

“If I get arrested and the camera and card end up in a police evidence locker, there is no record of the incident from the past several minutes for tomorrow’s paper.

Even if I lose the memory to the police – and reman free – I can return to the paper, get a long lens and photograph the investigation from off he freeway.”

He said police returned the memory card more than three hours later after he complained to a supervisor from the sheriff’s office, whom he has known for year. The supervisor contacted the State Police, who returned the memory card to him, enabling the newspaper to publish them, where they became instantly famous throughout the world, recording 1.2 million page views during the first 32 hours.

Proeber said the officers apologized profusely.

Proeber has since posted all the photos here, including the ones after the man had been shot. This was when the officers noticed him so a female detective starts walking up to him and demanding the memory card. Here is The Pantagraph’s version of the incident which made no mention of how police confiscated the memory card.

However, police ended up making a DVD of the photos, which they had no legal right to do, according to the article.

“Illinois Press Association lawyer Don Craven is still negotating with the State Police to get the DVD bad. They had no legal right to make the copy.”

At this point, it is fruitless to pursue a legal claim because even if police do hand over the DVD, who is to say they didn’t already make multiple copies?

The real legal pursuit should be on how they confiscated the memory card in the first place.