Updated: Blogger Says Hawaii County Police Officers Beat Him For Filming Them From Across the Street

Big Island reporter and blogger Damon Tucker was severely beaten by police and arrested for “hindering a government operation” Friday night while taking pictures from a public sidewalk outside a concert he was covering in Pahoa.

According to a post on his popular Damon Tucker’s Blog, “the police have now confiscated my camera and cell phone as well as roughing me up and locking me up in a police detention holding cell for taking video and pictures of them in action from the sidewalk in front of Pahoa Village Cafe.”

Seven pictures posted yesterday, taken by Tucker’s wife upon his return from the emergency room, show apparent multiple deep abrasions scraps and bruises on all of his extremities and torso.Tucker says his right shoulder is damaged, he is limping on his left leg and is in severe pain.

He says that he took the pictures on his cell phone which was confiscated by police as “evidence,” as was his camera which he was not using.

Tucker wrote that he will “be filing a lawsuit against the Hawaii County Police department soon for a few things.”

In his Friday night post Tucker wrote that:

People are allowed to take pictures and videos of police officers w/out getting roughed up. I’m battered, bruised and bloody from an officer slamming on the sidewalk… Thankfully I have eyewitnesses that will come forward to say what happened.

My wife took pictures shortly after I was released from jail tonight…

I just want my cell phone back and camera back…. I was rolling video when the officer took me down and they took my cell phone and camera from me for “Evidence”.

This is not Tucker’s first run-in with police while covering news and taking photos. On Christmas Eve, 2008 Tucker was investigating complaints of violations of the American with Disabilities Act at Pahoa Post Office when a HPD officer threatened him and forced him to delete pictures Tucker had taken of the parking lot and the officer.

Tucker declined further comment for now saying he is weighing his options and will post again about the incident on his blog. He is due to appear in court on September 8.

Update Monday August 8, 2011

(PNN) — Aug 8 — Damon Tucker, the reporter/blogger who says he was severely beaten by Hawai`i Island police Friday night. says he was across the street taking picture of an altercation between two women when he was “blindsided and taken down” and then arrested by a Hawai`i Police Department (HPD) officer.

In an email response to PNN inquiries Tucker said that “I was taking pictures of folks leaving a concert a fight broke out (sic)… people were breaking things up… cops moved in and I was across the street taking pictures of it all.

Tucker says that he had left the venue where he was covering a “Red Eye Blind” concert in Pahoa when “(o)ne cop came over to tell me to put the camera down… so I complied… he left… 15-20 seconds later I started filming again and I got blindsided and taken down.”

He said it was a younger officer who originally asked him to stop filming and a much bigger and veteran one who “roughed me up”- the latter being the same officer who arrested, booked and processed him at the police station,

Tucker, who is well known in Pahoa, says he was wearing a shirt with his name on it in the form of his twitter address and tried to identify himself to the officer whom he says accosted and arrested him.

“I tried to tell the officer who I was… he would have none of it” Tucker said in the email. “(W)hen we were at the station he asked if I had an official ‘Reporters Badge’ or something to that effect and I said no… I run local blogs and I’m a well known blogger throughout all of Hawaii.”

There is no state or national “certification” for who is or isn’t a reporter or journalist although some local police departments do issue “press passes,” usually solely in order to allow reporters inside police lines, but not to confer any first amendment “freedom of the press” rights, which are federally protected and not “conferred” by police.

Tucker says he started filming because a fight had broken out outside the club.

“Two girls were fighting,” he wrote, and “from what I have now heard… one girl got hit with a bottle. I was leaving the club and heard the commotion and turned around and started to film from my iPhone, at least one of the girls I saw at the station.”

Apparently Tucker was not in close proximity to the police action and was within his constitutional rights to film from a public sidewalk whether he was a “reporter” or not.

He described what happened after he was beaten.

“I was in cuffs outside the club for about 30 minutes while the cops continued to diffuse the more dangerous situation. After that situation was diffused they brought me down to the police station… where the younger officer had to look in a book to find something to charge me with. At about 45 minutes into the booking… I asked if I could use the bathroom… officer said sure… empty your pockets… and then through(sic) me into a jail cell with no cot or anything for nearly 45 minutes. I was then released on my own PR (sic) given the summons I posted on my blog and left with the assistance of an officer on duty who dropped me off close enough to my house so that I could have a cigarette on the way home and not startle everyone in the neighborhood or shame folks by me being brought home by a police officer at 2:00 in the morning.”

In addition to the gruesome picture that Tucker posted on his blog, Reporter Tiffany Edward Hunt also took pictures of Tucker and posted them at her “Big Island Chronicle.” site.

She also posted an “Open letter to Police Chief Harry Kubojiri” on Saturday asking for “a statement regarding Damon Tucker’s account of police brutality for taking photos in Pahoa last night,” which she says was emailed to the chief, a spokeswoman for the police department and the mayor’s office.

On Sunday Tucker posted pictures of what he said were the bloody, dirt-caked clothing he was wearing during the incident.

The email to PNN was also sent to a national clearinghouse web site called “Photography Isn’t A Crime,” which documents incidents of harassment by police and others of both reporters and citizens for legally taking picture in public places. The web site says its purpose is to “educate everyone about the rights and responsibilities of photographers.”

This is not Tucker’s first run-in with police while covering news and taking photos. On Christmas Eve, 2008 Tucker was investigating complaints of violations of the American with Disabilities Act at Pahoa Post Office when a HPD officer threatened him and forced him to delete pictures Tucker had taken of the parking lot and the officer.

Tucker has said he will be seeking legal counsel today and filing a lawsuit.


Ref: Cops Beat, Arrest Reporter for Taking Photos Outside Concert in Pahoa

Journalist Andy Parx has covered Kaua`i government and politics for over 30 years in print and on local TV. He currently writes a daily on-line news, commentary and analysis column at "got windmills?- The Daily Tilt."

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