“Stay right there. Let me see your hands.”
As PINAC investigative reporter Jeff Gray conducted a First Amendment audit of the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Florida, he was aggressively approached by a military police officer with his hand on his gun and ordered to stay right there.
Specialist Ruiz confronted Gray as he took photos from a public right of way on the side of State Road 16, across the street from base property.
“You need to relax,” said Gray, alarmed to be confronted by a military officer grasping at his gun holster.
“I don’t know who you are,” said the strangely afraid Specialist Ruiz. “Go ahead and turn around for me sir.”
“Don’t put your hands on your gun, are you kidding me?” answered Gray. “I’m not turning around.”
As Gray refused to obey orders from a military police officer outside his jurisdiction, Ruiz continued barking orders.
“Go ahead and step to your vehicle,” said Ruiz.
“Am I being detained?” asked Gray.
“You’re not being detained, but you’re being questioned,” Ruiz replied.
“No, no, no, you don’t even have the authority out here, can you please take your hand off your gun, I’m just taking photos out in public,” Gray stated.
Specialist Ruiz then demonstrated exactly how afraid of the public he has been conditioned to be.
“Listen sir, for my safety, I just want to ahead and pat you down,” Ruiz told Gray, who was only taking pictures in public.
“No, I don’t consent to any searches, I don’t consent to any pat downs, please relax,” maintained Gray.
“Everything that’s been going on, I’m just…,” said Ruiz, without finishing the sentence by saying “afraid that everyone is a terrorist trying to kill me.”
Ruiz then told Gray, “You can’t be taking pictures of a military installation,” and radioed in to the base, “It looks like we have a sovereign citizen here taking photographs.”
When Gray asked Ruiz what law he was citing, Ruiz remained silent, and his superior officer arrived to end the fiasco.
“I’m an Oath Keeper also,” said Major Dillard. “These guys work for me, if there’s anything not above board going on here, I want to be the first one to know about it.”
Dillard added that he thought the military was “going in the wrong direction,” and let Gray continue taking photos without further harassment.