Just a little more than a year after the Suffolk County Police Department paid a $200,000 settlement to a photojournalist they arrested for video recording in public, another man is claiming they did the same to him, even going as far as to attempt to delete his footage.
But they ended up deleting the wrong footage, claims Thomas Demint.
However, he remained quiet about the incident for more than a year, during which he says he has been pulled over and harassed regularly by police to intimidate him for recording the chaotic scene that shows cops tasering an 80-pound woman.
But the 20-year-old man finally went public with the video Wednesday in preparation for his trial next month on charges of obstructing government administration and resisting arrest.
While the video does capture a tumultuous altercation between a family and Suffolk County police and paramedics who were responding to a 911 call about a man attempting to commit suicide, it does not capture his arrest because he said he had turned the camera off by then.
According to CBS New York:
“I’m videotaping this. I’m just videotaping,” Demint says in the video.
After the video ends, Demint claims police handcuffed and arrested him.
“I was tackled to the ground. They told me to stop resisting and I was like ‘I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting,’” he said. “The other police officer came over and took my phone, tried to delete the last video.”
Now, the 20-year-old community college student is speaking out. In the year since his arrest, he claims he’s been the victim of petty traffic stops. His phone was also confiscated by police for six weeks.
Attorney Ken Mollins said he will fight the charges of obstructing justice and resisting arrest.
“He was so within the law that you can’t be more within the law,” Mollins said. “In fact, he didn’t have to, but he did tell them he was videotaping.”
None of the articles published on the incident say whether or not Demint video recorded any of the traffic stops that followed the incident.
And police, of course, deny any wrongdoing, releasing the following statement:
“Suffolk County Police officers responded to a Center Moriches home after a 911 caller reported an adult male was attempting suicide on May 21, 2014 at approximately 11:10 a.m. When police arrived, officers attempted to administer aid to the suicidal man when his family intervened. While police were attempting to calm down those involved, Thomas Demint interfered with officers by shouting obscenities toward police officers and paramedics as well as entering the scene several times after he was told not to. Mr. Demint’s actions diverted officers’ attention away from the suicidal man and Mr. Demint had to be physically escorted away from the scene. Mr. Demint was placed under arrest for Obstructing Governmental Administration and Resisting Arrest.
The Suffolk County Police Department has not received a complaint from Mr. Demint nor have we received a copy of the video. Department officials will reach out to Mr. Demint regarding his claims. A thorough investigation will be conducted into Mr. Demint’s complaint to find out exactly what happened.
The Suffolk County Police Department respects the civil rights of all members of the public. These rights extend to bystanders at police scenes; however, bystanders must not interfere with police operations or create a safety risk to the public. Bystanders may record video as long as they do not enter restricted areas, interfere with police operations, violate any laws or compromise the safety of officers.”
The incident took less than a month before the Suffolk County Police Department agreed to pay photojournalist Phillip Datz $200,000 for arresting him in 2011 in a video that went widely viral, which would make one think they would never do that again.
But the settlement also required officers to go through a training program on respecting the rights of journalists and citizens to record in public, which included a training video that is posted below along with the videos by Demint and Datz.
The fourth video below hopefully serves as a training video for citizens to not record in the vertical mode as Demint did here because he could have captured the entire scene without having to pan back and forth as he did.
UPDATE August 9, 2016: One year ago today, we posted the story of Suffolk County police charging Thomas Demint for obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, the usual contempt of cop charges for people who dare record police abuse.
However, on November 12,2015, the district attorney dismissed the charges.
And on November 23, 2015, filed a $2 million lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department for false arrest.
That suit appears to be still spending.