by Rachel Ritchie
Providence (RI) Journal
On Sunday, August 6, I arrived at a Sunday afternoon street fair in Providence , R.I. to take pictures for the Providence Journal. I shot the usual-break dancing, people eating, cute kids.
I heard a "pop,pop, pop, pop, pop. I put
an autofocus rangefinder wide angle to my face, stood still, and shot as
people ran past me. I had no idea that I had just photographed a man who
had shot four people.
I turned and saw a man with a gun in his
hand walking away from me.
I found one person who had been shot. I photographed her. All of the other victims had been carried to the emergency room which was across the parking lot from the festival. (The festival had been held in a hospital parking lot.)
Police arrived and started questioning witnesses. I saw a cop that I knew from the gym. I told him that I had a picture of a man with a gun - not necessarily THE shooter. I also told him that I didn't have a face.
He spoke with his supervisor who told him to take me to the Journal. I told them that I didn't want to leave my car parked in the area, so I followed the cop back to the paper in my car.
While I was driving to the paper, I called the picture desk, told them what was happening, and told them that a cop was expecting to see the film and that they had better find out what our policy was fast.
Meanwhile, the cop was called on his radio and told to "seize the film" The picture desk heard this on the scanner, and headed for the front door along with security and reporters.
I got out of the car and was rounding the corner to the building when the cop came up to me and told me that he was going to have to "confiscate" the film. I told him calmly that I wasn't giving it over. I kept trying to walk slowly for the front door. He grabbed me just as I had my body half way through the front door of the building.
Then, he pulled, I pulled, I screamed, He called for backup, picture editors and reporters tried to negotiate. ("the editor is on the way to the building. Let's wait until he gets here.") I made a bolt for the inside-I got yanked all of the way out of the door. I tried to hand my cameras to a colleague inside-my arm was blocked.
By this time, there are 15 police cars in front of the paper-lots of yelling and screaming-extreme extreme extreme rudeness on the part of the cops-incredible patience and negotiating skills on the part of my colleagues.
Finally, I was "muckled"- my hands were twisted behind my back and I was brought to my knees. I was lifted and taken to a cruiser. My cameras and fanny back and back pack were taken and I was driven to the station.
I met with detectives who told me to go back to the paper and develop my film. Apparently, their lawyer had told them that what they had done violated a Federal Law.
I was driven back to the paper. My film was returned to me. A cop followed the film into the paper to maintain the "chain of custody" The cop looked at all of the film on the video imager and told the picture editor which frames he wanted prints of. He got the pictures, and the Chief of Police showed up in the darkroom along with the executive editor.
This is getting to be a very long story. The paper demanded and got an apology from the police, which we printed in the paper. We also demanded and got a copy of the directives that should be given to each cop regarding seizure of film and harrassment of the press. We also have a very good video, taken by the company security cameras that were mounted on the building and aimed at the front door-of Providence Police on Journal property yanking me out of the doorway and forcing me to the ground.
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