Police Tell Reporter Filming Virginia Shooter Crash ‘Delete Footage or Lose Camera’

Police Brutality

bryce-williams

On Wednesday, in the aftermath of the Bryce Williams on air shooting, two BBC journalists were threatened by Virginia police for filming the scene where gunman crashed and shot himself.

Those journalists say that the police threatened to confiscate their camera, and gave them the ultimatum: “delete the footage or lose the camera.”

The two reporters, Tara McKelvey and videojournalist Fraz Strasser were nearly the first to arrive at the scene on highway I-66, where the shooter crashed his vehicle.

That was where Bryce Williams, also known as Vester Flanagan, shot himself hours he had killed journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on the air, during a live news broadcast.

Strasser took to Twitter to comment that he and McKelvey were told by police that the footage “could be evidence,” so they had to delete it.

Strasser added later that after the officer watched him delete the footage, he allowed him to leave.

Another officer “apologized and said we have to understand,” he said on Twitter.

He noted, the fact that law enforcement wanted to delete “evidence” made him “question their reasoning.”

But if the footage was “evidence,” should the police have told them not to delete it?

Strasser eventually said that “it was either not being able to work for the rest of the day, without camera or car, or delete crappy footage from far away.”

He noted that he “chose the latter.” But both he and McKelvery were able to recover some of this footage, but very little of it.

Strasser’s initial tweet quickly gained traction online, and appeared in the BBC’s live coverage of the Virginia shootings. Following this, a spokesperson the Virginia police reached out to him on Twitter.

“VSP is aware of this incident and we are looking into it, as such actions violate VSP [Virginia State Police] policy,” Corinne Geller said.

The BBC’s bureau chief in the US, Paul Danahar, contacted the VSP spokesperson, telling her to “exchange contacts” with her.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia says “using the wiretapping law to stop videotaping is a stretch, to be sure, but labeling the videotaping of police as disorderly conduct or obstruction of justice is creating new law out of thin air.”

(Article by Jackson Marciana and Reagan Ali)

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