Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- The Brevard County Sheriff's Office is reviewing the arrest of a citizen
journalist who was cuffed after he filmed a deputy making a traffic
Jeffrey Marcus Gray, 43, told our news partners FLORIDA TODAY he works for Photography is Not a Crime, a blog that
focuses on recording police activity. He and his attorney consider the
"Well, he was arrested while engaged in
constitutionally protected activity and some deputies from Brevard
County screwed up," said Gray's attorney, Eric Friday, who added, "A
citizen with a camera is just like any other journalist and has the same
rights to film what's going on in a public space."
attorney's office hasn't formally charged Gray; a spokeswoman explained
they are anticipating more information from the Sheriff's Office and
until then the case is pending. BCSO Commander Jimmy Donn explained his
agency is working with the State Attorney's Office and Gray's attorney.
the particular incident we're talking about, we had a citizen who
intentionally injected himself into an active, fluid law enforcement
action," Donn said. "Whatever his motivations may have been, whatever
his constitutional protections may have been, that decision does not
come without consequences and if those decisions and those actions put
the public at risk or put a law enforcement officer at risk, we are
prepared to pursue criminal charges and seek judicial review of that
action. Having said that, the sheriff's office is conducting a very
thorough review of all of the circumstances and dynamics of that
particular event, including the arrest of Mr. Gray and we are in
consultation with the state attorney, we have engaged Mr. Gray's legal
counsel and we are making every effort to ensure that the proper and
just decision to meet everyone's legal and lawful interests are met. So
it's an ongoing review."
Gray said he regularly makes public
records requests. Based in St. Augustine, he passed through Brevard
County last week on his way back from Miami. He said he stopped to get
video of marked police vehicles for a future video piece about public
records in Brevard. He saw a traffic stop on West King Street in
unincorporated Cocoa and walked over to document it.
records show that Deputy Brett Cook requested backup while he conducted
the traffic stop. An agent from the Game Over task force arrived, whose
identity is exempt from public record. The agent saw Gray standing about
30 feet behind Cook, holding a cell phone, pointing it at Cook.
records show the agent approached Gray and asked why he was there. Gray
said he did not have to answer any questions. The agent asked his name -
Gray said he didn't have to tell his name and handed the agent a yellow
card. Gray said this was his "right's invocation card" and he had the
"right to tape law enforcement." The agent told Gray he could stand away
from Cook and record video.
Police records show the agent then
contacted Cindy Flachmeier, director at the Community Service Council,
which is the business where Gray parked his car and was standing in.
Flachmeier said she wanted Gray removed from the property - he, his wife
and their car weren't welcome. The agent told Gray he had to move his
car and leave. Gray walked back toward the street in front of the car
Cook had stopped, saying his wife would move the car.
records show Gray stood on the county right of way in front of the
traffic stop and in front of the business. The agent told him he was
under arrest and put him in handcuffs.
"That's when the deputies arrested me for trespassing," Gray said. "When I was no longer on the private property."
posted a video online that was shot on a camera that remained in his
car. The video apparently captures an interaction between his wife and
Sheriff's deputies after Gray is walked away.
Agent: "Who are you?"
Wife: "I'm his wife and you guys are making a big mistake."
"OK. He was told to leave, you better get that camera out of my face.
He was told to leave several times. He thinks this is a game, it is
Wife: "It is not, but what I'm saying -- it's not against the law."
"Do you understand how dangerous it is to stand behind a patrolman when
he's doing a traffic stop? He doesn't know who you are, OK? He's gotta
worry about him now instead of the traffic violation, OK? You think
that's fair to him?"
Wife: "He's standing over here, well within his rights."
"No, he's walking around. He's walking around the deputy....making him
nervous, OK? There's no reason for that. Do you understand how
dangerous traffic stops are? If he wants to video tape him, why couldn't
he stand over there like we told him to? He's got a... he's got an
obligation to the citizens in that car and his family to go home at
night. He doesn't have to worry about somebody who thinks it's fun to
walk around a patrolman on a traffic stop. He's impeding an active investigation. And it's unacceptable. He was told he was
Wife: "He's standing over here."
Agent: "He was told five times to leave. He failed to do so, OK?"
Dialogue pauses for a moment, then Gray's wife has another encounter with a person who sounds like a different deputy.
2: "Ma'am. This is what I'm telling you, I'm gonna tell you one time,
one time only: take this vehicle and leave this, this parking lot.
You're not free to be on the roadway, the county right of way or in this
parking lot. You're now trespassing. I'm only gonna tell you that one
time, OK? Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
Agent 2: "Here's his property. He's going to Brevard County Detention center."
Wife: "Where is that?"
2: "I don't have to tell you, because you're not gonna cooperate with
me, I'm not gonna cooperate with you. What I'm telling you right now is:
get in that seat, move this vehicle."
The video ends just as Gray's wife can be heard addressing the deputies.
said he remained polite through the encounter, identified himself as "a
journalist gathering content for a story," and invoked his right to
Gray was booked without incident at Brevard
County Jail on two charges of resisting an officer without violence and
one charge of trespassing after warning. He paid a $1,500 bond.
important, because we need to watch the watchers," Gray's attorney said.
"The police need to be accountable for their actions. And while most
police officers do a fine job, we have too many instances where video
cameras have caught police misconduct that have shown this is a valuable
tool to ensure that police do their job properly without infringing on
the rights of citizens."
Commander Donn said the incident was
exaggerated and taken to levels of emotion that were unnecessary. He
said the woman driving the car that was stopped was upset by Gray and
felt her privacy was being violated.
"We did not create that
kind of drama," Donn said. "So I think the average citizen who's driving
their vehicle and they have an interaction with a law enforcement
officer, those people would not desire that event to be videotaped and
broadcast on every social media outlet available."
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