New Mexico state agency sued for arresting videographers
Three men who were arrested for filming law enforcement officers outside an Albuquerque bar filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month.
The incident occurred three years ago as New Mexico Department of Public Safety alcohol enforcement agents were conducting an investigation outside the Distillery bar.
The bar owner, Jacob Traub, had hired David Garcia, a videographer, to tape the officers as they were checking IDs and giving breathalyzers to customers walking out of the bar.
Police arrested Garcia after he refused to stop filming them.
That was when Lance Gomez, manager of the Distillery bar, pulled out another video camera and started filming the arrest.
So he got arrested.
And that was when Traub pulled out another video camera, only to get arrested himself.
According to court records, the agents acknowledged they arrested the three men because they were videotaping them.
The story is being reported by The Albuquerque Journal, which makes you sit though an advertisement video before allowing you to read the actual article.
Department of Public Safety Spokesman Peter Olson would not comment on the suit but said agents Cameron Fisher and Jerry Belyeu frequently work undercover and were concerned their identity would be made public.
“Part of their job is to observe illegal behavior, and if they are known they can’t do their job,” Olson said.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Kennedy said the agents’ concerns about being undercover were ridiculous and that they have appeared on television before while conducting special operations.
“They have no problem appearing on television when they want to promote themselves,” Kennedy said. “It is not like these guys do anything dangerous. They enforce alcohol regulations. Give me a break.”
Photography is Not a Crime reader M.G. Bralley, a retired police officer and New Mexico blogger, addressed the issue in 2006 after the arrests. Some of you may remember that I wrote about Bralley last year after he was harassed by Secret Service officers for taking pictures.