L.A. Photo Activist Arrested Again for Asking for Cop’s ID

Andrew Meyer

“You’re a nobody, I’m a sworn peace officer, who do you think they’re going to believe in a court of law?”

On Halloween night, photographers Shawn Nee and Daniel Saulmon, both who are part of the expanding PINAC team, went out to record the police. Even before the evening began, Nee accurately predicted that they would see police detaining and frisking black and Latino people without any reasonable suspicion or basis other then skin color.

After a night of witnessing police detaining, illegally searching, and collecting information from helpless citizens, Nee walked up to a police officer – at the 16:20 mark of the above video – to ask for his badge number. The officer had been shining his flashlight in Nee’s camera to try and obscure the recording of their illegal actions.

When Nee went to ask the officer for a badge number, another officer decided he had had enough of Nee’s citizen journalism.

“Are you press?” the officer demanded. “Where are your press credentials?”

Nee answered, accurately, “I don’t need press credentials to be press.”

“Ok that’s it you’re under arrest,” said the officer before he grabbed Nee, spun him around, walked him up the street, pushed him against a wall and put handcuffs on him.  The officer claimed Nee was arrested for “interfering” with the officers by “running up the street chasing cops” three minutes earlier.

According to Nee, “When they were putting kids in the paddy wagon, cops took off down the street. [Saulmon] and I ran towards that area, people were in the street too, I was running in the gutter in that lane. I was running towards an incident that was arguably newsworthy to document it. Never touched a cop, never blocked a cop, was never told to stop running. If we interfered, than all the people interfered.”

At the time of the arrest, Nee said that to the arresting officer, who then claimed that Nee jaywalked.

“Then they said ‘you jaywalked,'” Nee told PINAC. “The cop was very aggressive, he took every opportunity to manhandle me, push me against the wall. When I was in handcuffs, the arresting officer, he said – we were arguing about its not a crime to stand near police or run near police – he said ‘that’s your definition, you’re a nobody, I’m a sworn peace officer, who do you think they’re going to believe in a court of law.'”

“Shawn Nee never jaywalked,” explained Saulmon. “The police were harassing him so he complained to a supervisor. He tried to complain for a second time or to get a badge number of a harassing officer, and when he did they put him in cuffs. The police started threatening me to stand back even though hundreds of others were walking through and standing even closer then I was. When I tried to refuse, they said I had also jaywalked and if I didn’t stand back I would also be cited.”

A supervising officer showed up and began whispering to the arresting officer, who said “This guy’s an asshole, I’m taking him in.” The supervisor then pulled out a sealed investigation card, questioning where Nee grew up, where he worked, and his social security number. When Nee refused to answer, the supervisor – Sergeant Ramos, claimed that Nee’s use of his right to remain silent is obstructing.

After Sgt. Ramos gave Nee a hard time about not have ID, the arresting officer took Nee to jail, where he was booked for interference. At the jail, even the booking officer was surprised at the charge, asking “That’s it? No intoxication?”

“Yeah, he’s one of these First Amendment guys,”  said the arresting officer.

This is Nee’s second arrest for use of the First Amendment, he was arrested in 2012 on the same charge after photographing police from 90 feet away.

Originally set to be released on $500 bail or his own recognizance, Nee was released from jail in the morning on $10,000 bail, a higher price than a man there on warrants was given. At the jail, Nee witnessed a beating while locked up with gang members, drug users, and repeat felons. Nee was there for asking an officer for his badge number.

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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