California Man Taken Down at Gunpoint for Photographing Airplanes

Carlos Miller

Larry C. was two weeks into his new job at a software security company in Northern California

When he was confronted by six armed police officers pointing guns at him within seconds after entering work Monday.

“They kept calling my name and ordering me to get down on the floor with my hands in the air,” Larry said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Tuesday morning.

“I was thinking it was some weird training exercise.”

But he realized it wasn’t a training exercise after the six Santa Clara police officers handcuffed him, marched him into a room and frisked him.

Then they demanded to know why he was pointing a gun at airplanes Friday after work from the parking lot of the company.

He was actually pointing his camera; a Sigma 50-500 mm lens mounted on a Bushhawk shoulder mount,which is not uncommon for big lenses, especially one nicknamed the “Bigma.”

Larry, 52, who asked that his last name not be used, said he was in the parking lot with friends attempting to photograph airplanes because San Jose International Airport is nearby. But it was so dark, he didn’t manage to photograph anything decent.

Somebody spotted him and called security. Security checked it out and found nothing, even though he remembers seeing a security guard making his rounds in the parking lot.

The guard apparently logged the report that a man was seen in the parking lot pointing a gun at passing planes, so a night supervisor reviewed the video footage and sure enough, there was Larry pointing what appeared to be a gun.

“I saw the video and it showed me from behind and there was no way to tell if I was holding a rifle or a camera,” he said.

But even then, there was a much better way of handling it than waiting until Monday morning and ambushing him with guns drawn at his workplace.

The company had done an extensive background search on him before hiring him, so there was obviously nothing in his past that would have indicated he would have gone on a shooting rampage during his honeymoon period of getting to know his co-workers.

Those rampages usually take years to build up.

All they had to do was contact the sheriff’s office in Santa Cruz County where he lives and they could have stopped by his house to talk to him, if they were indeed that spooked by the video.

It was a pretty traumatizing experience for Larry but at least he received a $25 gift certificate for his company cafeteria courtesy of human resources.


Citizen Journalism