CALIFORNIA — A California student photographer faces two criminalcharges for taking pictures of a parking lot accident outside hisnewsroom at Chaffey College.
Justin Kenward, a photographer for The Breeze, was in the newsroom when amedical emergency crew attended to a man in a nearby parking lot. He grabbed hiscamera and took pictures of a man being loaded into the ambulance on astretcher.
“As far as I know the victim had absolutely no issue with me shooting thephotos,” Kenward said. “In fact, when he saw me he waved and smiled.”
Kenward said the victim was sitting upright and talking on his cellphone.
“Firefighter medics reported that while they were attending to a personexperiencing chest pain, a photographer began taking photographs of the patientdespite the patient’s objections, and allegedly interfered with the care of thepatient,” according to a press release from Chaffey College.
Kenward said the paramedic told him he was not allowed to take photos ofthe man in the ambulance due to doctor-patient confidentiality. Kenward movedfurther back.
A few minutes later campus cadets told him not to photograph the scene. Heidentified himself as press and the cadets walked away.
“I took that as a green light and continued shooting,” Kenward said.
He said he was about twenty feet away when a firefighter said no pictureswere allowed. Kenward argued with the man, took down his name and went inside.
Shortly after, an emergency team member came in with a police officer.Kenward, the newspaper adviser and a Breeze reporter spent about an hourdiscussing the matter with the police. The officer wanted the images but thegroup refused. Kenward said the officer threatened to expel him from campus fortwo weeks if he did not hand over a copy of images.
“I knew he wasn’t able to actually expel me, that’s up to the schoolboard,” Kenward said.
Gregg Leslie, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of thePress said police cannot legally demand the pictures under newsroom searchlaws.
“You cannot seize the work product — including notes and photographs– even if you have a search warrant,” Leslie said. “The proper route wouldbe for them to subpoena the photos.”
He said the photographed person can sue for invasion of privacy, but thatdoes not give police the right to stop the photographer.
“You can always take pictures at a crime scene, but you can’t interfere,”Leslie said. “Even taking pictures inside an ambulance is not necessarilyillegal.”
Administrators Lisa Bailey, Sherrie Guerrero and Michael Dinielli were alsoat the accident scene. None could be reached for comment.
Bailey and Guerrero encouraged Kenward to give the photos to the officer,Kenward said. When he refused, the officer went to speak to the fire departmentand again threatened suspension.
Three hours later the officer came back and spoke to Kenward alone. Theofficer charged Kenward with two misdemeanors — interfering with afirefighter and disobeying an order from a firefighter.
“I wanted to scream,” Kenward said. “I just listened and signed the noticeto appear in court.”
Leslie said it is hard to predict what will happen in court.
“It sounds like he obeyed and simply did not give up the photographs, whichhe had the right to do,” Leslie said.
Kenward’s court date is Nov. 18.