An editor of a West Virginia online newspaper had his camera confiscated after photographing in the direction of a federal building last month by the same cop who arrested him three years earlier for photographing a traffic accident.
There is obviously some bad blood between Cpl. Doug Starcher of the West Virginia State Police and Bob Weaver, editor of the Hur Herald of Calhoun County.
In last month’s incident, Weaver responded to an alleged bomb threat at a U.S. Army Reserve Armory in Big Bend, which Weaver describes as one of “the lowest classified facilities in the country, generally unoccupied except by a couple of people during daylight hours.”
Weaver snapped three photos, none in which the armory can be clearly seen, not that it would make a difference. This prompted Starcher to tell Weaver that it was illegal to photograph a federal building.
Starcher ended up wrestling the camera away from him. The camera was returned three days later.
In Feb. 2006, Weaver was photographing the scene of a fatal traffic accident when Starcher ordered him to stop taking photos. Weaver actually complied and began walking back to his car, prompting Starcher to follow and arrest him.
Starcher accused him of photographing the exposed breasts of a dead accident victim. He also told his superior that Weaver was a “cop hater” (sound familiar?).
And there have been other instances.
One incident was in the presence of members of the Arnoldsburg Fire Department, who said they were baffled by the officers behavior.
In that case, Weaver was getting in his vehicle to leave as Starcher was arriving on scene, but Starcher claimed he saw Weaver rifling through the wrecked vehicle, the accusation was not supported by members of the fire department.
That night the fire department made Weaver an honorary member.
While taking pictures of a house fire at Minnora, Starcher verbally placed Weaver under arrest for trespassing, which was not a justified complaint. Starcher decided not to press charges.
Weaver says there have been other incidents by State Police violating first amendment rights, contending that any person, not just a reporter, has the right to take plain-view photos.
In a previous incident Trooper Fred Hammack walked into a pasture field where Weaver was photographing an accident scene, demanding him to cease picture taking.
In 2002, Starcher was investigated for perjury because of apparent lies me made about a drug suspect.
After the most recent incident, the Hur Herald is asking law enforcement to file charges against Starcher.
“The last time I checked if someone wrestles personal property from your hands and takes it, it is a crime,” Weaver said.