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Man referred to Homeland Security after photographing water tanks

One of the city’s water towers displayed on the city’s website.

The City of Kentwood, Michigan, (population less than 50,000), believes terrorists are targeting its water tanks, so they will gladly terrorize anybody who dares photograph these tanks.

However, they haven’t

One of the city’s water towers displayed on the city’s website.


The City of Kentwood, Michigan, (population less than 50,000), believes terrorists are targeting its water tanks, so they will gladly terrorize anybody who dares photograph these tanks.

However, they haven’t done anything about the pictures of the tanks on the city’s website, which are posted above and below, putting the entire town at risk to any potential terrorist savvy enough to do his research online.

But they did send out a message to self-described nerd Ed Heil, a 40-year-old computer programmer, who was caught photographing these very same water tanks last week.

“It’s a nerdy thing I like to do,” he explained to the Grand Rapids Press.

But Kentwood officials did not buy his folksy demeanor. When they spotted him photographing the water tank, utility workers demanded to know his name and the reason why he was photographing such a prime terrorist target.

Heil refused to answer their questions and walked down to the local library, which raised even more suspicion. The utility workers followed him as he sat down at a computer terminal. They continued demanding his name.

After much prodding, they finally broke him down.

“I was physically shaking with anger and fear, and let them know in no uncertain terms that I did not believe this was a legitimate exercise of authority, and I wanted them to cease harassing me and let me work,” Heil said. “I told them they had no right to demand any personal information from me, but they were so intimidating and threatening, I did give them my name and they finally went away.”

The utility workers were praised by the mayor and by the city’s utilities manager for their diligent work in keeping the town safe.

In fact, the utility manager even referred the case to the Department of Homeland Security, which might land Heil on some kind of terrorist watch list.

But Mayor Richard Root said no one takes chances any more. He said he was proud of city workers for their diligence, adding that they responded appropriately.

“You’re never certain what the intention is,” Root said. “I’m sure you’d find the Coast Guard very excited if somebody (was photographing) the Mackinac Bridge.

“I hope (Heil) is not too offended, but on the other hand, I think we did a good job.”

***

John Gorney, Kentwood’s operations and utilities manager, said his concern wasn’t the content of the photo, but the reason behind it.

He was summoned to the scene Thursday. If he had to do it over again, he said, he would’ve called police immediately, a new policy that took effect Friday morning.

But he made no apologies.

So rather than create a policy that would educate city workers about photographers’ rights, they’ve created a policy that would escalate the situation by getting the cops involved.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that Heil would still be legally allowed to refuse to provide his name to the officers.

After all, there is no reasonable suspicion in photographing a public water tank.

One of the city’s water tanks displayed on the city’s website

One of the city’s water towers that is displayed on the city’s website

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