Texas deputies fail at intimidating man from taking photos of them


Bexar County Sheriff's Deputy Sedilla

All Joe N. wanted was for the deputy to slow down in his residential neighborhood.

But for that simple request, a Bexar County sheriff’s deputy demanded his identification and made him stand in front of his squad car’s camera while he conducted a background search and inquired if there were any warrants out on the 30-year-old man.

And when nothing came up, Deputy Sedilla called for two other deputies who escalated the intimidation after arriving on the scene in front of Joe N.’s home just outside the San Antonio city limits.

But Joe N. refused to be intimidated, even snapping photos of the deputies after they ordered him not to take photos.

This is how he described the exchange in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Tuesday night.

Deputy Sedilla: “You can’t take photos.”

Joe N: “Are we in China? As far as I know we can take pictures.”

Deputy Sedilla: “Put that camera away.”

Joe N: “No.”

Two more deputies arrived, including a Sgt. Garza, who threatened him with arrest if he posted the pictures on the internet.

“I asked, ‘arrested for what?’ but he just turned and walked away.”

Joe N. sent me the photos to be posted on the internet. We’ll see if Garza follows through on his promise.

Joe N., who lives in a cul de sac in a middle class neighborhood, initially posted his story on another forum not related to photographers’ rights. He is the second Texas photographer to stand up for his civil rights in the last few weeks after being ordered by police to not take photos.

It all started Monday night when he arrived home and noticed Deputy Sedilla pull out of his neighbor’s house driving about 15 miles over the posted 25 mph speed limit, he said.

“I flag him down and he stops and asks, ‘Is there a problem’,” Joe N. said.

“I ask, ‘Why are you speeding through my neighborhood?’,” he said.

But Sedilla stepped out of the car and demanded his identification. Eventually, the deputy ordered him to stand in front of the squad car in direct line of the dashboard camera.

When the two other deputies arrived, Joe N. said he was having a cell phone conversation with a friend but the sergeant ordered him to hang up.

“I said, ‘No, this is going to be the word of three officers against my word, this is my only witness’.”

The deputies eventually left but not before going to his neighbor’s house, where Sedilla had been earlier, to get them to sign an affidavit that swore that they did nothing wrong.

“My neighbors refused to sign it,” he said.

Bexar County Sheriff's Sgt. Garza


I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar. To keep updated on the latest articles, join my networks at Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed.


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