Mike Skidmore, a Photography is Not a Crime correspondent based in Ohio, was beat up, arrested – and almost shot by a security guard this morning – after trying to photograph the name tag of a public official during a public meeting in a public building.
Now he facing felony charges, accused of assaulting two security guards, biting one of the guards in the face.
All of it, of course, a result of them assaulting him for taking the photo in the first place.
The incident took place Thursday morning inside the Richland County Administration Building where Skidmore and other citizens had planned to meet with county commissioners to voice certain concerns.
But the commission decided they did not want to speak to the citizens, even though it was an apparent item on the agenda, announcing, instead, that they would be going into a private meeting, which one witness said is an indicator that they will never return.
Skidmore informed the commission that they did not have the legal right to simply change the agenda at their will. Another woman asked why were all the county officials wearing their name tags backwards, making it impossible to read their names.
One county employee, the secretary who records the meetings, turned her name tag around, prompting Skidmore to stand up, hold his camera close to the tag and attempt to take a photo.
And that prompted Richland County Commissioner Marilyn John to accuse Skidmore of inappropriately touching her, which led to another woman walking out of the room to beckon the security guards.
The security guards then walked in and made their way directly to Skidmore, who placed his hands around his camera to protect it.
“They attacked him,” said Connie Garber, the citizen who had asked about the name tags.
“They didn’t say, ‘you’re under arrest,’, they didn’t say, ‘give me your camera,’ they just went over there and started attacking him. They started beating on him and had pushed him into the corner. I walked to the other side of the room because I did not want to get hit.”
Once across the room, she saw Skidmore’s arms were up when the gun went off, which was when she ran out of the room.
Initial rumors were that they were going to accuse him of “reaching” for the guard’s gun, which is what led to the discharge.
But Garber said Skidmore’s arms were up in the air while they were attacking him, which was when one of the security guards pulled out his gun.
“His arms were way up high,” she said in a telephone interview with PINAC. “There was no way he could attempt to grab the gun.”
The security guards are retired Richland County sheriff’s deputies, the same agency who shot and killed Garber’s unarmed son last year, claiming they were in fear for their lives because he was holding a remote control.
So the guards are double-dipping at the expense of the taxpayers.
The guards also have had previous verbal altercations with Skidmore because he insists on video recording his friend’s public records requests, as you can see in the videos below.
Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon called a press conference on the incident this afternoon, acknowledging there are two videos that captured the incident, but also told reporters he does not plan to release those videos at this time.
After all, transparency had never been their strongest suit.
Security officers Tim Norris and Chuck Kochis were punched in the head and received cuts to the arms and hands in the scuffle, Sheldon said. Kochis was bit on the face, he added.
Both have since been released.
The injuries happened when Norris and Kochis were called into a public commissioner’s meeting at 9:44 a.m. to remove Skidmore for alleged inappropriate behavior.
From what information sheriff’s deputies have gathered, they believe Skidmore was upset commissioners were about to enter into executive session, requiring all attendees to leave. He asked to see the clerk’s name tag, which was turned around. Sheldon said they believe Skidmore grabbed the clerk’s shoulder, causing commissioners to complain the move was inappropriate.
They asked the security officers to remove Skidmore from the room, but he fought back, Sheldon said. In the process, Norris reached for his firearm and it accidentally discharged while out of the holster, he said.
The bullet struck the wall, and did not injure anyone involved, Sheldon said.
“I know Mike; he’s very concrete in his beliefs,” Sheldon said. “I think sometimes he gets maybe a little bit over-zealous.”
Yes, we know Mike as well. And he may be a little overzealous when it comes to documenting public officials. But that is the only reason he was attacked today, making the guards even more overzealous.
Garber said that ever since deputies shot and killed her son by busting through her door, running upstairs to his bedroom and opening fire without saying a word, then creating lies to justify their actions, she has been a regular attendee at commission meeting
“They don’t like it when I go to these meetings because I speak about the corruption,” she said. “They murdered my son in cold blood. They will have to kill me before I shut up.”