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View Full Version : Operation Planespotter: BF Nowhere



Eric Daniel Smith
11-18-2005, 06:44 PM
The following happened to me today at Durango - La Plata County airport.

So I just got back from "spotting." While I was out, at my usual spot, a pilot radioed that there was a guy standing on top of a grey pickup pointing a high powered rifle at landing and departing aircraft. So after I finish up my spotting in the area I decided to drive over to the FBO (noting that as I was driving there were county vehicles following me). Right after I got out of my car the head of security at the airport stopped me and told me that someone had reported a high powered rifle being pointed at aircraft. Immediately I set my camera bag down, opened it up, and made it clear that I had nothing to hide. But still, 6 cop cars were already on the way.

They frisked me, put me in handcuffs, searched my camera bag, my car, my wallet, took all the info off my drivers license, and proceded to almost interrogate me then lecture me about "aviation photography BAAAAAAAAAD" the whole speal. I noticed one of the guys was named Lucero but no relation to the Denver cop. Finally they decided I was of no harm, unhandcuffed me and packed up to head off, as they were doing this I noticed one guy was packing up an assault rifle and putting it back into his squadcar. That freaked me out. So I went inside the FBO and hung out with the people that work there, whom I know pretty well, told them all my story and they helped calm me down and clean the piss out of my pants (j/k). As I was driving home I noticed a blackhawk was coming in and landed on the taxiway (It was doors closed and had the red cross marked on it so I'm not sure if it was coming anyway but I doubt it). I left.

NIKV69
11-18-2005, 07:43 PM
Just read your thread on anet. Amazing. I would have not went for the handcuff thing at all unless they were going to arrest me. This country is going to the dogs! This was your local cops?

Eric Daniel Smith
11-18-2005, 07:48 PM
This was airport, local sherrifs, and since the airport is on the reservation (I guess) there was a tribal cop there also.

Eric Daniel Smith
11-18-2005, 08:16 PM
I actually just got off a lengthy phone interview from a gentleman at the Durango Herald. Basically just my side of the story for the papers. I also at the end of the interview made this statement: "People since 9/11 have a perception that has been glorified by the media that planespotters like myself are a threat to aviation. Let me be very clear in saying this is not the case. We are at airports very often, we know what is suspicious and what isn't, and we can be the eyes when the security guards aren't in the area. We do not hesitate reporting anything suspicious, unfortunately I was the recieving end of one of these reports today (laughs). We are not a threat."

jakbar
11-18-2005, 09:31 PM
I would have not went for the handcuff thing at all unless they were going to arrest me.

I'm with Nick on this one. I'm not letting some cop put handcuffs on me in a situation like that. If they insist on doing so, it would be strictly at their own risk of being sued.

I'd have no problem letting them poke around my car, because I do realize that they have an obligation to follow up on a report of someone pointing a gun at an airplane. It wouldn't harm me in the least bit to let them do that while I continue to take pictures. In fact, that's what I do all the time when cops want my license...I tell them that they can knock themselves out while I continue to shoot. Most of the time they're cool with it. I've gotten into it a few times with cops, though, when they insist on making me put the camera down.

Stories like this make me sick. Every cop in this country wants to be that guy who stops the next terrorist attack.

BTW, if I was in your shoes, Eric, I would certainly have contacted the newspaper like you did, but I would have also mentioned that what we do -- that is, take pictures of airplanes from public locations -- is not illegal! It never has been -- not before 9/11, and not now.

Josh

Eric Daniel Smith
11-18-2005, 10:55 PM
I would have not went for the handcuff thing at all unless they were going to arrest me.

I'm with Nick on this one. I'm not letting some cop put handcuffs on me in a situation like that. If they insist on doing so, it would be strictly at their own risk of being sued.


Here's the thing. One of the cops had an assault rifle. Legal or no as much as the detention was (and I'm pretty sure it was), I'm not gonna fight a dude with an assault rifle.


BTW, if I was in your shoes, Eric, I would certainly have contacted the newspaper like you did, but I would have also mentioned that what we do -- that is, take pictures of airplanes from public locations -- is not illegal! It never has been -- not before 9/11, and not now.

Josh

I didn't contact the newspaper. They contacted me.

jakbar
11-18-2005, 11:01 PM
Legal or no as much as the detention was (and I'm pretty sure it was), I'm not gonna fight a dude with an assault rifle.

I hear you. But, that being said, I think it's wrong in the first place that the assault rifle even came onto the scene. They shouldn't be able to pull a gun to force you to give up their freedom when you've done nothing wrong and they have no reason to suspect you are going to threaten them with deadly force.


I didn't contact the newspaper. They contacted me.

I don't think that changes what I would have said.

Anyway, thanks for posting your story...I enjoyed reading it.

Josh

moose135
11-18-2005, 11:31 PM
Not to be contrary, but remember, a pilot reported someone pointing a rifle at airplanes. Are you really surprized by the response? I'm not a cop (nor do I play one on TV) but if I was responding to a call of someone with a rifle, I'd make damn sure he wasn't in a position to harm me.

Sorry you had to go through that ordeal, but I'm not too surprized by their reaction.

Matt Molnar
11-18-2005, 11:46 PM
Just read your thread on anet. Amazing. I would have not went for the handcuff thing at all unless they were going to arrest me. This country is going to the dogs! This was your local cops?


I'm with Nick on this one. I'm not letting some cop put handcuffs on me in a situation like that. If they insist on doing so, it would be strictly at their own risk of being sued.

If the cops want to handcuff you, they generally don't ask first. Resisting will get you nothing but a beatdown and a night in jail...or worse. In the event you're cuffed and you feel your rights are violated to the extent that you want to seek legal remedy, you ought to. But resisting the cuffs automatically makes you the bad guy, and however many cops are there will attest to such at trial with extreme predjudice. If you felt the police were wrong from the beginning, getting arrested will severely hamper your case against them.

We do need be vigilant in protecting our liberties, but it must be done by subtle means. Becoming martyrs will not do anyone any good. Eric did the right thing, and his statement to the newspaper is exponentially more powerful for our cause than a story about him getting arrested would have been.

NIKV69
11-19-2005, 03:26 AM
Totally ridiculous! My ISP encounter was ready get real ugly but I held my ground. I am sick of this ****, how in the name of GOD could a pilot or anybody else mistake a camera for a firearm? I mean these situations should never reach this point. I don't mind being asked to show ID, but enough already! This paranoia has gotten so out of hand.

Phil,

It is time to design a new shirt that is better than the "Airline Photography is NOT a crime"

Your in charge!

Eric Daniel Smith
11-19-2005, 03:59 AM
It is time to design a new shirt that is better than the "Airline Photography is NOT a crime"



My Canon shoots photos not bullets.

PhilDernerJr
11-19-2005, 07:38 AM
This incident is very upsetting because of the fact that you were handcuffed. However, if there was a specific report of someone with a rifle or firearm, I feel the police should be able to secure you until they can clear you and the area of any threat. The law is kinda gray here, but this particular instance, I can kinda see why they did what they did.

Keep in mind that this is not a "guy with a camera" call, but a more specific, high threat report that was made to police, and by a pilot, not by some local worry-wart.

As mentioned, the thing to do is to not resist the police, as that will only land you in deeper trouble.

I'm glad things turned out the way it did, but this incident is a good opportunity to open up communications with the police there. If you need any tips on what to say to them, I can offer some tips. Email me.

As for the "Airline Photography is not a crime" t-shirts, the original creator told me that he would love to see us (NYCA) create a more updated version of it and offer it on our site. So actually, we will soon offer the shirt here. to


I'll keep you folks posted, maybe with a new thread.

NIKV69
11-19-2005, 10:20 AM
It is time to design a new shirt that is better than the "Airline Photography is NOT a crime"



My Canon shoots photos not bullets.

What about us Nikon users? LOL

Eric Daniel Smith
11-19-2005, 01:48 PM
What about us Nikon users? LOL

I LOVE THE '80s!

here's the article:
http://www.durangoherald.com/asp-bin/ar ... 1119_3.htm (http://www.durangoherald.com/asp-bin/article_generation.asp?article_type=news&article_path=/news/05/news051119_3.htm)

PhilDernerJr
11-19-2005, 02:14 PM
I think you represented us well, Eric. Really, thank you, on behalf of all of us.

Eric Daniel Smith
11-19-2005, 02:40 PM
Really?

PhilDernerJr
11-19-2005, 04:33 PM
Yes. Your quotes in the article, I think, well-represented what we go through and what our stance is, without sounding extreme or as though spotters are anti-police. You balanced it perfectly.You did great.

Eric Daniel Smith
11-19-2005, 04:45 PM
Oh cool hehe

T-Bird76
11-30-2005, 12:55 PM
The Police have right to put you in handcuffs without charging you with anything for their protection as well as yours. If you refused they can charge you with resiting. The Police in this case were acting on a tip that someone with a rifle was pointing it at planes.

Remember when the Police come on scene they don't know what is happening and they have to secure the area and part of securing the scene is to subdue anyone who many be involved. Remember they have a job to do as well and this was a gun call so they can only think the worst might happen. Once all is said and done through you cannot sue them, they were doing their job. It certainly isn't the best story but I'm sure it would have went differently if the call was someone is taking pictures and not someone is pointing a gun. Maybe that pilot should have his eyes checked.