It was just after midnight on New Year’s Day when Antonio Buehler spotted a pair of Austin cops manhandling a woman at a gas station during a DUI investigation, so he pulled out his cell phone and began taking photos.
That, of course, prompted one of the cops to storm up to him and accuse him of interfering with the investigation.
Austin police officer Pat Oborski shoved Buehler against his truck before handcuffing him. He later claimed in his arrest report that Buehler had spit in his face.
Buehler was charged with resisting arrest and felony harassment on a public servant, the latter punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
After spending 16 hours in jail, Buehler began seeking witnesses to the incident.
“We started posting flyers around the gas station,” Buehler said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Sunday afternoon.
“I went on Facebook and on Twitter and I put something up on Craig’s List.”
By January 4, he had obtained a video from a witness who had been standing across the street watching the exchange between Buehler and Oborski.
The video doesn’t show Buehler spitting on the cop but it might be difficult to capture that from across the street with a cell phone camera.
However, it does show Oborski pinning Buehler against the truck, making it obvious that the cop had stormed up to him rather than the other way around.
But in the arrest report, Oborski claims that Buehler was “in my face,” which is why he had to place his hands on his shoulders to “distance him away.”
Oborski also claimed that he wiped his face after Buehler had supposedly spit on him, then pulled out the handcuffs to arrest him, but the video doesn’t show that either.
All the video shows is Oborski pushing Buehler against the truck before wrestling him down to arrest him.
The video also shows Buehler’s friend acting as if he is video recording the arrest, but Buehler says he was not recording.
Buehler then filed an internal affairs complaint against Oborski in late January thinking that the cell phone video – coupled with dash video and audio from the patrol car, the footage from the gas station surveillance camera and audio from a recorder Oborski was wearing on his uniform – would prove that he was unlawfully arrested.
But as we’ve seen so many times before, internal affairs did not substantiate a single one of Buehler’s complaints against the officers.
Not only that, but the letter dated June 15 also informed that he would be forbidden to “view, posses or receive copies of the Internal Affairs Division’s investigation.”
The letter did say he was welcome to meet with a “Police Monitor for a Police Monitor’s Conference,” where a cop would go over the details of the investigation with him.
But naturally, he would be forbidden from recording that meeting, even though he would be allowed to take notes.
Buehler said this is a policy stemming from the police union’s contract that states the investigation will only be made public if the accusations against the officer were substantiated.
So in other words, the public must take their word that they did, in fact, conduct a thorough and honest investigation.
But despite all this and the fact the charges are still hanging over him, Buehler remains upbeat.
On July 2, he will plead his case before the Austin Citizen Review Panel, which is made up of seven cities and was created to provide oversight to the police department.
The board does not have the authority to discipline but it can make recommendations.
Buehler also took the police department up on its offer to review the investigation in person where he was allowed to view all the evidence he had not seen before.
He posted his findings on Faeebook on a post that received more than 140 “likes.”
“I found it very interesting that you can only see driver’s side, you can’t see the passenger’s side,” he said of the dash cam video.
“All the other dash cam videos I’ve seen show a wider angle where you can see both the driver side and passenger side.”
Buehler is referring to the car that police had pulled over that night prior to his altercation with them, which apparently has a tight crop of the driver’s side, which is rare indeed.
In the car were two women. The driver was undergoing a sobriety test. Oborski claims the passenger was interfering with that investigation by yelling out the window.
He also claims he had to twice walk over to the passenger side to tell the woman to settle down while he was conducting the sobriety test on the driver.
Buehler was pumping gas observing the situation. His friend was in the passenger’s seat.
“I didn’t hear her yell the entire time,” he said of the passenger. “She clearly wasn’t yelling to the degree that she was interfering like they claimed.”
But before he knew it, Oborski had yanked her out of the car and was manhandling her.
“We pull out our cameras and try to take pictures with our cell phones,” he said. “She sees me taking pictures and says, ‘please, take pictures and videos.’
“I asked the cop, ‘why are you hurting her, she didn’t do anything wrong, stop hurting her.’
“They pick her up and walk her right past us. Oborski then turns around walks back towards me.
“’He said, ‘who do you think you are?’
Oborski walked up right up to Buehler, sandwiching him between the back of his truck.
That is where the cell phone video starts recording.
While that video doesn’t pick up much audio and the dash cam video doesn’t show the passenger’s side – and the recorder Oborski was wearing is conveniently undecipherable, coming across muffled as it had been covered – the dash cam video does provide clear audio of the interaction.
“The audio shows that he keep raising his voice escalating the situation,” Buehler said.
Oborski claimed in his report that it was Buehler who escalated the situation by continually raising his voice.
Then there is the chuckle.
“All of a sudden, he chuckles and says, ‘you spit in my face,’” Buehler said. “I said, ‘I didn’t spit in your face.’
“If someone spits in your face, do you chuckle?”
The gas station surveillance video shows the entire incident without audio, but from the beginning, unlike the cell phone video, which began recording once the two were in each other’s faces.
“It shows me taking pictures, then it shows the cops coming up to me, pushing me,” he said. “It shows I am completely passive in my demeanor.”
Today, more than six months after the incident, the case has yet to go before a grand jury, which will determine if the case will go to trial.
In the mean time, he created Peaceful Streets, a project will encourage Austin residents to record police in an effort to maintain accountability.
The program offers Know Your Rights workshops and will eventually hand out 100 video cameras to residents.
“We want to encourage people to take their liberty and security in their own hands,” he said.
Buehler has also created a petition where he is trying to gather 5,000 signatures to send a message to the district attorney to investigate Oborski and his partner.
As of today, the petition has 1,394 signature but more than 3,000 Facebook likes, which goes to show you just how lazy some of us have become.
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