A YouTube video shows Texas deputies detaining PINAC correspondent Phillip Turner for suspicion of burglarizing vehicles, and possibly plotting to help an inmate escape from jail in late September.
Their reason: Turner was video recording the City of Midland Police and Communication Center and Information Systems Department from the sidewalk.
That, of course, gave deputies the impression that Turner was plotting to bust someone out of jail, then break into cars right in front of the police station where seven cameras are mounted on the front of one building.
Not to mention capturing the evidence on his own camera for safe measure.
The Midland Police and Communications Center and Information Systems Department is described as a highly specialized unit of personnel which provides centralized communications service support to the Midland County Sheriff’s Office, Midland Fire Department and the Midland Police Department.
Part of the communications center is located underground and is the Public Safety Answering Point for Midland County, according to its website.
The video begins with Turner walking down the sidewalk taking photos of vehicles and the building with several cameras.
“How many cameras do they need?” asks Turner, who frequently hears the same question from officers as he tours the State of Texas conducting similar audits.
Eventually, two sheriff deputies pull up in an SUV with their emergency lights lit up and approach Turner.
“How’s it going? I’m deputy Cook with the sheriff’s office. It’s just curious; somebody’s taping around the sheriff’s office. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Turner explains he’s just taking pictures of vehicles and that he was attempting to locate the main building of the complex.
“Do you have an ID or anything? Deputy Cook asks. “To show who I’m talking to.”
“I don’t have one on me, ” Turner replies.
“What’s your name,” deputy Cooks asks, reaching for his radio to run Turner’s name through dispatch.
“Uh, I’d rather not give it.”
“M’kay,” Cook says. “Alright, any reason . . . video taping . . . just curiosity? Or what?”
“I’m just gathering matters of public interest. Just a journalist,” Turner replies.
Cook then points Turner to the direction of the main building when the sergeant begins explaining several cars in front of the center have been burglarized “numerous times.”
“And that’s a fact. You can look it up.”
“And that has nothing to do with me,” Turner retorts.
“It does right now, because of suspicious activity.”
“Did you see me go near the vehicles?”
Initially, he tries to claim Turner is recording on county property, but Turner points out he’s standing on the sidewalk and asks if he’s being detained.
“Right now you are, because of suspicious activity,” The sergeant informs Turner.
The sergeant explains he’s just making sure what Turner is doing is on the “up and up.”
“So, I’m being detained for suspicion of burglary. Is that what you’re saying?”
“It’s suspicious activity.”
“Because we’re trying to find out what your’e doing,” the sergeant slips. “OK?”
“I’m taking pictures out in public. That’s all I’m doing. I’m not trying to argue. I’m a journalist gathering matters of public interest. That’s it. I have no interest in burglarizing vehicles, especially at a sheriff’s office.”
The sergeant then explains he’s just trying to “protect and serve,” especially the people inside of the building.
“We’ve had, three or four months ago, we had an inmate escape. So we’re going to be concerned when we see an individual walking up and down the parking lot.”
The conversation concludes with Turner asking, “am I still being detained?”
“No, you’re not.”
“OK, y’all have a good day.”
PINAC intended to cover the video in early October, but the story was delayed after we experienced some set backs with our Facebook page, which you can read about here.
Watch Turner’s video of the incident below.