PINAC Reporter Detained for Photographing Courthouse,

Andrew Meyer

PINAC Reporter Detained for Photographing Courthouse, Accused of Being “Possible Terrorist”

PINAC investigative reporter Jeff Gray continued his First Amendment audits on Florida officials, testing their knowledge on the law when it comes to photography.

Or more precisely, their lack of knowledge.

In the top video recorded in the front of the federal courthouse in Orlando last week, he was accused of being a “possible terrorist” by a security guard who kept shining his flashlight into his lens, even though it was broad daylight.

“It’s not really doing anything, it’s daylight,” Gray told the guard, who continued shining the light nonetheless.

Gray spent a few minutes berating the guard for his lack of knowledge, who suddenly came to the realization that he was being audited and apparently was familiar with Gray’s work.

“Is this one of those audits you guys do?” the guard asked. “It’s going on Youtube, right?”

The guard then claimed that he never told Gray it was illegal to photograph the courthouse when the first words out of his mouth were, “you can’t take pictures of the building, sir.”

Another guard who had run out and demanded his identification from the get-go, claiming it was a violation of federal law to photograph the building, before running back inside to call the marshals, never returned. And Gray left before the marshals arrived.

In the second video below, Gray was confronted by a Tavares cop named Atkinson who assured him he had every right to take pictures, but only if he would provide his name to ensure there was no injunction to prevent him from stalking someone at the Lake County Courthouse.

Gray told him he was under no obligation to provide this information and then tried to walk away, but the cop told him he was being detained.

Gray, who had told him he was working on an investigative journalistic piece, provided this information under threat of arrest, standing by as the cop relayed his name and date-of-birth to the dispatcher.

As they waited to see if Gray was a possible terrorist or obsessed stalker, Atkinson tried to make small talk.

“Getting some good shots, getting some good stuff for your story?” he asked.

“Like I said, it’s an investigative story, so I don’t want to tell anybody what’s it about,” Gray responded. “I don’t want to tip my hat.”

“Is this something we’re going to see later?” Atkinson asked. “‘Hey, that was the guy that we saw on the sidewalk.'”

“Definitely,” Gray responded. “It will be seen later.”

Little did Atkinson know the story would be about him violating Gray’s First and Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him with no reasonable suspicion, a situation he could have easily avoided by honoring his oath.

For news tips on aerial photography and drones, contact Andrew Meyer, PINAC’s staff writer covering UAV photography, the First Amendment, and more. Follow him on twitter @theandrewmeyer.


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