A South Florida cop said he was in fear for his life when he snatched a man’s camera from his hand on Tuesday, handing it over to a second cop who deleted the video that had just been recorded.
The cops then kept the camera, handing Juan Santana a receipt where he was told he could pick it up later.
The Hialeah cop, later identified as Antonio Sentmanat, told Santana that he thought the Sony Bloggie camera was a gun.
“He told me that they have cameras with guns inside them,” Santana said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
“He told me, ‘I don’t know if there is a gun inside that camera.’”
Santana, who weighs more than 500 pounds and is recovering from a car accident, had pulled up to Sentmanat in a three-wheel medical scooter on the street in front of his house in broad daylight and asked for his name and badge number.
“I wanted to report him to internal affairs because he pointed a gun at my friend and frisked him illegally,” Santana said. “I wanted to get his name on camera.”
Santana, a longtime PINAC reader who lives in Hialeah, a municipality in Miami-Dade County, said it all started when cops pulled in front of his house in two unmarked cars after spotting his friend, Manny Garcia, sitting on his front porch.
A cop wearing a SWAT t-shirt then hopped out of his car, pointed his gun at Garcia and ordered him to step onto the street.
Garcia, 18, had no idea what was going on, so he obliged. Once on the street, the cop began frisking him before releasing him, realizing he had nothing to do with the auto theft he was investigating.
Meanwhile, another friend who had witnessed the incident, ran inside the house to tell Santana what was going on.
Santana stepped out of the house and learned that police were actually looking for his tenant, who rents the efficiency behind his house.
Santana walked back to the efficiency and knocked on the door, asking his tenant to step outside and talk to the cops.
The tenant stepped outside and began talking to the cops without getting frisked or threatened with a weapon. They didn’t even bother asking for his identification at this point.
It turned out, the cops were investigating a report of a stolen car, which had been parked across the street from Santana’s house. The main suspect in the auto theft – who was already in custody – was a female friend of the tenant’s, who sometimes visited him.
But after a few questions, the cops determined the tenant had nothing to do with the stolen car, so they let him go.
Meanwhile, Santana was still upset that police had pulled a gun on his friend, especially when it became evident they had no need to pull a gun on anybody in that investigation.
So he rode up to the officer on his scooter and demanded his name and badge number.
“He said, ‘this is how we’re going to do this,’ and steps out of the car and grabs my wrist to take my Bloggie,” Santana said. “I tightened my grip and held on to it and he kept pulling at it.”
But when one of Santana’s friends walked up to the tug-of-war to get a closer look, Sentmanat reached for his gun.
“He told Keith to step back and that was when I released my grip,” Santana said. “I didn’t want my friend to get shot over a camera.”
Sentmanat handed the camera to the other cop who deleted the footage, before handing Santana a card saying he could pick up the camera later at the station.
Santana was so enraged he had his friend retrieve a second camera from inside his house, a Gumball 3000, which he placed around his neck and began recording as he argued with police over the camera confiscation.
The video is hard to follow visually because Santana was recording discretely but the audio confirms that cops confiscated the camera because one cop tells Santana that “he doesn’t know what you’re intentions are” in defense of Sentmanat, who is pictured above.
Later that night, Santana went to the police station with some friends to retrieve his camera, but was told he would have to wait at least five days for the report to be completed.
He plans on returning tomorrow.
Send stories, tips and videos to Carlos Miller.