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By Henry K. Lee
The San Francisco Chronicle

OAKLAND, Calif. - An award-winning Oakland Tribune photographer has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland, saying police officers illegally barred him from taking pictures at the scene of a crash on Interstate 880.
Ray Chavez said the officers interfered with his right as a member of the press to cover news events, specifically a car crash and the emergency response time. The incident last year caused him to be "arrested and handcuffed without justification solely due to the exercise of First Amendment rights," said his suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.
"It has been very stressful since I was humiliated by the OPD officers," Chavez said. "They should do their jobs and not interfere with ours as media members. These cops need to be re-educated. I don't think they know what the First Amendment and freedom of the press means."
Alex Katz, spokesman for Oakland City Attorney John Russo, declined to comment. The city previously rejected a claim that Chavez filed in connection with the incident.
On May 4, 2007, Chavez was driving north on Interstate 880 near the 29th Avenue exit in Oakland when a car in front of him crashed and rolled over in the fast lane. Chavez said he saw a woman who was injured as a result of the crash. He and other motorists in the fast lane could not move their cars.
Chavez, wearing his press credential around his neck, got out of his car and began taking pictures, "considering this a spot news matter," the suit said.
Oakland traffic Officer Kevin Reynolds saw Chavez and told him that he should leave the scene, even though there were other people who were there who weren't told to leave, the suit said.
Chavez told the officer that he had a right to be there as a member of the press. Reynolds angrily told Chavez to leave immediately and that he "didn't have any business here (and) that it was a crime scene," the suit said.
As an ambulance arrived on scene, Chavez raised his camera and took more photos, prompting Reynolds to block the lens of the camera and tell him, "You don't need to take these kind of photos," according to the suit.
Reynolds asked for Chavez's identification and began writing him a citation, the suit said. As a California Highway Patrol cruiser arrived, Chavez again took pictures. That prompted Reynolds to say, "That's it. You're under arrest," the suit said.
The officer made Chavez sit on the roadway next to the overturned car with his hands behind his back for a half-hour, the suit said. Passing motorists mistakenly believed Chavez had caused the crash and "cursed and made derogatory references to and signs at plaintiff while he sat on the ground handcuffed," the suit said.
Officer Cesar Garcia told Chavez that he would be cited for impeding traffic and failing to obey a lawful order. The officers gave him the citation, removed the handcuffs and let him go, but not before Reynolds warned him, "Don't ever come here again to take these kinds of photos," the suit said.
The suit names the city, Police Chief Wayne Tucker, Reynolds and Garcia. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court injunction directing police to train its officers about allowing the media "reasonable access to accident and crime scenes and behind police lines."
Chavez, 44, was named photojournalist of the year earlier this month by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
"The Oakland Police Department must abide by state statute and their own regulations as to what is appropriate, to allow the press to adequately cover newsworthy events," said Chavez's attorney, Terry Gross. "Whenever there's an incident, a crime scene, if there's no interference going on, then the OPD rules and state statute provide this right of access to the scene."

Wire Service

Subscribing Member
996 Posts
I wonder if these idiots actually did our jobs for a few days, responding to bad scenes,medicals, accidents, etc and actually had to work the scene and deal with the victims instead of hiding behind their cameras if their attitudes would change

Premium Member
10,057 Posts
" most " of these guys are such shitbags, they never for a second think of the devastated families that will see those photos..I got into it a couple times with guys who worked for local papers trying to take pics of victims , luckily the Helipad was on private property...but the attitude on these guys....
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