A Missouri cop who claimed it was illegal to record police officers from 200 feet away is now the subject of a lawsuit that should prove him wrong.
Pevely police officer Wayne Casey is now being sued over the January incident in which he snatched a smartphone from a man who had been recording a traffic stop from across the street.
Matthew Rankin filed his lawsuit Thursday against Casey and the City of Pevely, a municipality of less than 6,000 people.
Casey, however, was fired last month in an unrelated incident where he sat at his desk inside police station watching another cop named Robert "Ryan" Watson choking and shoving an inmate who had insulted him. Casey had only been hired a year earlier.
Casey claims he feared for his life because he saw a flashing red light from Rankin's phone but not only did Rankin deny it, there is no red light visible from Rankin's phone during the entire 10-minute video.
He then accused Rankin of "interfering" because he was distracted by Rankin recording.
According to the lawsuit, which can be read here:
On January 16, 2019, at about 12:15 AM, Mr. Rankin observed a traffic stop in the City of Pevely, County of Jefferson, Missouri and began recording the scene with his mobile camera approximately 200 feet away.
Defendant Officer Casey observed that Mr. Rankin was recording the traffic stop.
Casey then got into his police car and drove over to where Mr. Rankin was standing.
Casey asked Mr. Rankin if he has ID with him.
Mr. Rankin responded that he did not.
Mr. Rankin then advised Casey that it is not a “stop and ID state.”
Casey responded that in fact it is.
Casey continued to state that in the state of Missouri it is now illegal to record police officers.
Casey then said, “I can seize your phone right now as evidence.”
Casey then said, “Let me see your phone. Go ahead and hand it.”
Mr. Rankin said, “No.”
Casey then said, “Hand it right now or I will place you under arrest.”
Mr. Rankin then said, “Sir, you just committed a couple felonies. Its protected…”
Casey then shouted over Mr. Rankin, “Listen do you understand what I just said to you?!”
Casey continued to shout at Mr. Rankin, “Stop it right now. Stop it right now.”
Mr. Rankin attempted to calmly respond, but Casey instead aggressively grabbed Mr. Rankin’s left hand and placed his thumb in a "thumb lock" with his right hand, and used pain compliance to pry Plaintiff’s hand open to retrieve his cell phone.
Casey then turned off the live stream which Mr. Rankin was using to record, and began scrolling through Mr. Rankin’s phone, viewing its contents.
Casey again reiterated in a loud tone, “It is illegal in the State of Missouri to film us.”
Mr. Rankin responded, “The Supreme Court already ruled against that sir.”
Casey shouted back, “No. Bull.”
Casey continued, “I am going to seize your phone as evidence.”
Casey is a perfect example of cops who are not ashamed or embarrassed to lie so blatantly without even a shred of common sense to not do so while being live streamed.
Casey's opinion on it being illegal to record cops in public likely stems from a 2017 decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with a lower court in a case where a man had been arrested several times for recording police and other government employees inside a public building.
U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey wrote that a citizen “has no constitutional right to videotape any public proceedings he wishes to.”
However, as the Washington D.C.-based Student Press Law Center points out, the ruling does not meant
Akins sued the City of Columbia, its police department and individual law enforcement officials in May 2015 for what he alleged was a pattern of retaliatory arrests, harassment and confiscation of property motivated by his police watchdog activism. U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey threw out his constitutional claims, ruling in part that a citizen “has no constitutional right to videotape any public proceedings he wishes to.”
The appeals court did not discuss the substance of the lower-court ruling, but simply found no legal basis to reverse it.
The Akins ruling does nothing to disturb, or contradict, the unbroken string of federal appeals-court rulings vindicating the constitutional right of anyone — citizens as well as journalists — to capture video, images and audio of law enforcement officers when they conduct official business in places visible to the public.
Most recently, federal appeals courts in Philadelphia (Fields v. City of Philadelphia) and in New Orleans (Turner v. Driver) upheld the right to bring constitutional claims against police agencies that interfere with audio or video recording of their officers. That makes four out of 12 regional appellate courts to affirm that recording police activity is constitutionally protected; none has squarely ruled otherwise.
Meanwhile, please keep your eyes open in case Wayne Casey ends up hired at another police department.
Watch the shortened, edited video above and the full, unedited video below where he insinuates the phone is a weapon, making him fear for his life.