It was just over a week ago when Florida resident Jeff Gray had a positive encounter with a Lawtey police officer while standing on the side of the road holding a sign warning drivers about an upcoming speed trap.
On Monday, he wasn’t so lucky.
The Photography is Not a Crime reader known as HonorYourOath was arrested after refusing to provide identification to a cop who already knew his name.
Gray video recorded the encounter as he has done so many times in the past, including his positive encounter with Officer Blom last month, which is posted above.
But Officer Starling of the Lawtey Police Department was not as understanding as Officer Blom.
Starling not only charged him with resisting police without violence, but confiscated as evidence the iPod he was using to video record the encounter.
Startling also confiscated an iPhone and a 32-caliber handgun he is licensed to carry.
The only item returned to him when he was released from the Bradford County Jail at 2 a.m. this morning after spending almost ten hours in jail was his wallet.
Police have no legal right to confiscate a citizen’s camera as evidence unless it was used in the commission of a crime, such as child pornography or upskirting. But they do it all the time and get away with it.
“They also impounded my car and I didn’t even get my keys back,” he said in a phone interview today.
Officers Hughes who filled out Gray’s arrest report accused Gray of parking illegally, even though he was legally parked in a restaurant parking lot.
“He also said I was pointing and shouting at cars but the video will prove that is also a lie,” Gray said.
That is, if they don’t erase the footage as so many cops have become accustomed to doing.
Gray is the second PINAC reader to be arrested in Florida this year on incidents involving a camera. The first was Steve Horrigan who was arrested in January on wiretapping charges for recording a traffic stop.
Lawtey, a town of less than 1,000 residents in Northeast Florida, is a renowned speed trap, even earning the distinction of being named an “official” speed trap by the American Automobile Association.
It is also highlighted on the National Speed Trap Exchange, a website where drivers comment on their experiences with speed traps throughout the country.
In 1999, the Washington Post reported that speeding tickets brought in $400,000-a-year to the town where more than 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Gray, who lives in St. Augustine, had a confrontation with Starling about a year ago as he was standing on the side of the road warning drivers of the speed trap with a yellow sign.
“That time he took my ID and my camera and held on to them for about 25 minutes,” Gray said. “I was more green back then about knowing my rights.”
When Starling demanded his identification on Monday, he actually approached him by name, indicating that he knew very well who he was.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Mr. Gray, I need your ID,’” Gray said.
Gray has already spoken to Lawtey Police Chief M.M. “Butch” Jordan about the incident, inquiring about his camera and gun.
But Jordan, who holds the World Record for being the longest serving elected police chief, a position he’s held since 1962, told Gray that his property was at the Bradford County Jail.
But the county jail has no record of it ever being transferred from the Lawtey Police Department.
Gray has also spoken to the mayor about the incident who acted as if he was concerned.
Gray is encouraging PINAC readers to call the chief at 352-745-1869 and the mayor at city hall at 904-784-3454.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
You can also contribute to my Legal Defense Fund by purchasing a photographer rights lens cloth and/or laminated card to wear around your neck like a press badge through Zap Rag.Please write “carlos3” in the comments section of the Paypal transaction to ensure I receive a portion of the sale.