Texas cops called a helicopter on PINAC correspondent Phillip Turner for recording the Texas Department of Public Safety building from a public sidewalk, later accusing him of having scouts spying on them in the bushes and possibly planting explosives.
“It’s not cheap to fly these helicopters. It’s amazing they responded this way,” said Turner.
Video footage from the air, obtained by Turner through a public records request, shows a helicopter circling him as he recorded footage of the building from a public sidewalk.
A dispatcher can be heard radioing to officers about a black male subject, who “seemed to be recording from a sidewalk.”
“I just received a call from a state employee who was leaving the garage by building C Edwards of a black male subject, with a camera, he seems to be recording,” explains the dispatcher.
“I don’t know what it is he’s recording. He’s on the Venison side wearing a grey shirt and black shorts.”
A deputy responds, “Yes, ma’am. Just trying to get a little more information.”
“That’s the only information that was given to us by a state employee: black male, black shorts, grey shorts . . . on Vinison Rd. near the tracks along the street with a camera.”
Another officer calls in saying, “6145 Austin, are you guys still looking for that individual recording wearing a grey shirt, black shorts?”
“Negative, troopers have made contact with the subject.”
On the ground, it became apparent that some deputies never got the memo that photography is not a crime, and accused Turner of collaborating with “scouts in the bushes” and “planting IEDs,” which stands for improvised explosive device.
In fact, all Turner was doing was recording from a public sidewalk.
“These officers thought I had . . . like scouts out in the bushes, that I was planning an attack. I think cops watch too many movies or play too much Call of Duty. It’s really ridiculous,” Turner told PINAC.
DPS officers approach and begin questioning Turner.
“How are you doing, chief?” asks a trooper as he exits his car.
“What are you up to?”
“I’m just taking pictures,” replies Turner.
“Why can’t I?”
“Well, why are you taking pictures of our building?”
“Am I not allowed to?”
“Well, I just want to know why.”
“I’m just taking pictures. I’m just curious about it,” Turner explains.
“Curious about what?”
“What about the building are you interested in?”
“Just the structure; that’s it.”
“The structure…Do you have any identification on you?”
“No, I do not.”
“What’s your name?”
“I don’t feel comfortable giving that.”
“You don’t feel comfortable…”
“Well, why in the world are you filming this?” an alarmed trooper asks the First Amendment rights activist.
“It’s a public building. Why not?”
“There’s gotta be a reason why you’re doing it.”
“Am I being detained?”
“But we’re gonna ask you why you’re filming our building for some reason.”
“You can’t film it? It’s just a building.”
“Yeah, but we’d like to know why.”
“It’s a public bulling, sir.”
“It’s interesting, it’s unusual that you’re doing it.”
“Why would it be unusual?”
“It is unusual, for people to take, and photograph and film the building at the state police headquarters. Don’t you think that’s odd?”
“Not at all.”
“How is it odd?” asks Turner.
“Because . . . We have a security interest here.”
“OK, I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with filming a public building.”
:Sure, but why would you do it?”
“I’m curious about what your motive is.”
“There is no motive. I mean, I’m just gathering matters of interest for the public.”
“What’s interesting about that building.”
“One, it was paid for by tax dollars.”
“So how does that make it interesting?”
“Because it’s a matter of interest to the public.”
“In what way?”
“Because it is. I mean, it may not be interesting to you, but it may be interesting to others.”
DPS troopers then turn on the alarmist rhetoric that has become so prevalent after 911.
“He says he doesn’t have any ID and he doesn’t want to identify himself,” one troopers tells another on the scene.
“I mean, if I’ve done something wrong, then I’ll ID myself.”
“If a terroristic threat happens and the bulling gets blown up,” the other deputy explains. “We want to be able to identify you because of the series of events that has happened over the past five years, nine eleven. Wouldn’t you think we’d like to ID these people when a catastrophe does hit? It’s not a matter of if it’s going to hit, it’s a matter of when it’s going to hit.”
“So, basically I’m guilty until proven innocent, right?” asks Turner.
“No. Absolutely not, that’s not what our constitution states. You’re innocent until proven guilty. However, we want to consolidate all the evidence that we have if something were to occur to come knock on your door first if something were to occur if something does happen.”
“I’m not saying you’re a suspect or anything,” said the deputy.
“Well, I have no ill intent.”
“You don’t think that’s suspicious? That you have three video recorders all up in our face and you’re walking around our building non-chalantly trying to draw attention to yourself, because that’s what you’re doing,” says the trooper.
“You’re probably some type of police extremist or something like that. Unless you’re gaining intelligence for some type of terroristic, um, community. Wouldn’t you see that from our perspective.”
“Not at all,” replies Turner.
“Well, we’re here to protect the people that work for DPS and the citizens of DPS. And all we want to do is carry out our job,” explains the trooper.
“Chief (inaudible) is trying to gain some intelligence just in case something were to occur. I seen him just trying to back up–”
Turner then points his camera towards the camera circling him in the sky.
“Yeah, that’s a helicopter. That’s probably DPS’s…”
“Is that entertaining?”
That’s what happens when something suspicious like this happens. Do you have scouts out here looking at us? I might have to cruise around the parking lot. Are any IEDs placed anywhere?”
“You know what I’m saying?”
“You’re free to do whatever you like,” Turner replies.
“You don’t need to tell me that.”
“Once again, am I being detained here?” asks Turner.
“No, we’re just having a conversation with you.”
“You guys have a good day,” says Turner, bidding the troopers a friendly farewell.
“At this point I’m just going to remain silent.”
Turner remains silent as his video rolls on capturing the sounds of a helicopter overhead.
“You have a great day,” says a deputy.