PINAC reporter Jeff Gray was up to his old tricks again, photographing power plants from public sidewalks, making public records requests at police stations, not breaking any law, when he was approached by cops who accused him of breaking fabricated laws, even going as far as to accuse him of plotting an attack on police.
We’ve seen it all before with Gray; the paranoid cops believing they are keeping the world safe by violating his Constitutional rights, seemingly unconcerned about making fools of themselves on YouTube.
But he never fails to attract the cops who have not received the memo as you can see in the two videos below, which he recorded Thursday in Central Florida.
The First Video
In the top video, Gray walks into a University of Central Florida police station to make a public records request for the department’s policy on the use of seatbelts because police are notorious for not using them, thinking the use of seatbelts places them in danger in case they are ambushed.
But the reality is, more cops die from traffic-related incidents than anything else, so there’s a good chance that officers not wearing their seatbelts place themselves more in danger than if they were wearing their seatbelts. But cop logic tends to contradict actual logic.
They did allow him to photograph the policy, which states that all officers must wear their seatbelts at all times.
But when he stepped outside to video record police officers leaving the parking lot to see if they were complying with the policy, he was confronted by a cop named Curt Myhre, who accused Gray of “preplanning an assault on police.”
Myhre should be familiar with departmental policies considering in 1986, he shot and killed an unarmed robbery suspect who was fleeing, leading to a policy change within the Orlando Police Department that officers are not allowed to shoot fleeing felons unless they are placing somebody else’s life at risk.
“There’s threats against police officers every day,” Myhre told Gray, who has never made a threat against any officer.
Myhre eventually told him he was free to go, but Gray wanted to work on his story to see if the officers were wearing their seatbelts, so he decided to stick around, which made Myhre stick around.
“I’m standing here, getting paid by the hour, watching you,” he said. “You’re a threat to public officials. Stalking public officials.”
In the video, Gray points out that the only UCF cop ever killed in the line of duty was an officer named Mario Jenkins who was killed by an Orlando police officer named Dennis Smith in 2005 while working undercover at a high school football game.
“Corporal Jenkins was not killed by a person making a public records request, nor was he photographed or videoed to death by a person standing on the public sidewalk with a camera,” Gray narrates in his video. “Corporal Jenkins was shot three times and killed by …. another cop.”
The Second Video
Earlier that day, Gray was standing outside a power plant in Volusia County, which is just northeast of Orlando, when a security guard told him he was not allowed to video record from a pubic sidewalk.
Gray reminded him that he was allowed, so the guard proceeded to call deputies. Twenty minutes later, a pair of Volusia County sheriff’s deputies pulled up. By then, Gray had walked down the street to a busy intersection.
Deputy Jayson Richardson confirmed that photographing the power plant was not illegal, but “suspicious,” which he said gave him the right to ask for Gray’s identification.
While he had the right to ask, Gray was under no legal obligation to provide that identification unless the deputy was able to articulate a reasonable suspicion that he was somehow involved in a crime. Florida law is very clear about that.
Photographing a power plant from a public sidewalk just doesn’t cut it.
And Gray made it clear that he was conducting a First Amendment audit for Photography is Not a Crime to see if the deputies respected his right to record.
But both deputies remained insistent that he identify himself. Deputy Cristal Bustamante even told him he was being detained because of the “way things are today.”
“You are being detained until we can figure out who your name is,” she said.
“You’re in an area taking pictures of a power plant,” she continued.
When Gray asked if that was a misdemeanor or a felony, she avoided that question, telling him that it was a crime to fail to provide an identification to an officer upon demand. Deputy Richardson also told Gray the same thing. They are either deliberate liars or incompetent cops because as we said, the law is very clear on this.
“Failing provide law enforcement officer with a form of identification after you have asked to do so is a crime,” she asserted.
They went back and forth for 20 minutes until Gray asked for a supervisor.
While they were waiting for the supervisor, deputy Ricardson then began reading Gray his rights, oblivious to the irony that they were violating his rights by detaining him when they had no reasonable suspicion he was involved in a crime.
Volusia Sheriff’s Sergeant Virgil Ford eventually arrived and informed Gray he was free to go, telling him he did not believe he was a terrorist.
At first, Ford tried to play the good cop, being all chummy, telling Gray that he was not doing anything illegal.
However, when Gray began walking away, Ford informed Gray that he was violating the state’s “security communications act” by video recording them without informing them, even though nobody had an expectation of privacy in public, and Gray was openly recording, which is all he needs to do to make them aware he was recording.
“You need to tell me you’re recording that conversation,” Sergeant Ford said. “That’s illegal under Florida statutes, you know that?”
Gray corrected him that it was not illegal but Ford insisted he was right. Also, deputy Bustamante was wearing a body camera recording Gray the entire time without informing him first, but that was not an issue in Ford’s eyes.
Despite claiming he was violating the law, Ford allowed him to leave, but then began following him in his car as Gray drove off.
So now Gray will be requesting deputy Bustamante’s body cam footage as well as determining whether Ford ran his license plate through the state’s Drive and Vehicle Information Database, which is illegal unless he had a valid reason to do so, which he did not in this case.