Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A little bit of excitement tonight...

Well, it was a long day at work. I was tired, and it was hot out. I was wondering what I would cook myself for dinner when I got home from work. I went into the kitchen and the chicken wrapper in the trash had started to smell foul from my previous nights dinner. I grabbed the garbage and headed out of my apartment to throw it in the dumpster. I got about 30 steps out of my apartment (dumpster is about 60 steps) when I heard a guy yell something. I looked up, and there was a police officer standing in the middle of the street, telling me to "Go back into your house!" In that split second, I looked over the police officer's shoulder and I see a line-up of about 10 S.W.A.T. guys all lined up with machine guns, shields, helmets, face masks, handguns, and a hand held battering ram. I immediately turned around and headed back into my apartment (at which time I realized about 15 state, local and unmarked police cars all around, with dogs barking too). What the heck!? I immediately went over to my balcony and tried to see what I could see. A few minutes went buy with nothing happening, at which point I saw a woman with her 2 year old go walking by on the sidewalk. Gee... I guess it's ok to go outside now. So I grabbed my garbage, and took it to the dumpster. I walked back to my front door and proceeded to watch the events. Then it hit me... I should grab my camera! Then it hit me again... I've read a lot of "horror stories" on the interwebs about how police officers don't like their photo being taken. I know... legally I'm well within my rights, but I also know that this was not just a normal traffic stop. This was a SWAT team armed to the teeth. After a while I saw a young woman in handcuffs, and then all the SWAT guys were heading out to the van and taking off all of their equipment (including their facemasks). So I figured everything was pretty much under control at this point. I went inside and grabbed my camera. I stood there for a little while with my camera behind my back wondering what to do. Then I spotted an officer walking near me putting his bullet proof vest away in the trunk. I approached him and said "Sir, I'm an amateur photographer, am I allowed to take some photos?"
At first he ignored me (or didn't hear me). I repeated my request. Then he looked a little annoyed, and said "as long as you don't cross this line, you can" (the line was the police car parked in the middle of the road). Cool! I got permission!
So I snapped a few photos. Then it hit me... I didn't get the officer's name. What if another officer (or swat guy) sees me and tells me to stop taking photos!? What was I going to say? "But, he said I could"... "Who did?!"... "The other officer"... Which one!? .... Um.... Yeah, that's what I thought, now get on the ground! (these were the thoughts running through my mind.)
So, at this point, I went back to my apartment door, and held the camera at my side, and tried taking photos in a much less conspicuos way. Once, I knew I had at least one good photo, I said, "Ok, that's enough, I'm pushing my luck here." I put my camera away in my apartment.
Sure enough, about 5 minutes later one of my neighbors (that I don't know) was outside with his video camera (maybe he saw me with my camera?). Just then, sure enough... two of the SWAT guys walk over and asked him to stop filming. The guy just said "ok" and that was that.
I knew it!
So that's my little bit of excitement tonight.
I have to admit... I was scared of getting caught taking photos! I knew (well, I sorta knew, I'm not a lawyer) that legally I was allowed to take photos, yet I had heard so many stories of photographers getting harrassed, or worse arrested (usually the charges were dropped, but they were probably in the "system").
So, enjoy the photo that I posted above. It's the only one I'm going to post. I did a little bit of photoshop work to protect the identity of the swat guys. I'm not sure what the purpose is of the facemasks, only for them to take them off later in front of people? So in the chances that the officers don't wish to be identified I blurred the photos around their face to respect their privacy.
I still don't know what happened, other than two people were taken away - a man and a woman about in their 20's, and their car was towed away too.

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