Photographer arrested for taking pictures at accident scene
New Jersey–New Jersey state police arrested a veteran newspaper photographer in early October as he attempted to take pictures of a fatal car accident.
Al Schell, a photographer for the Cherry Hill, N.J., Courier- Post, was arrested alongside Interstate 295 near West Deptford after taking five pictures of a two-car wreck, the paper reported.
According to the paper, Schell said he was standing on the road’s shoulder when an officer told him to return to his car.
“He said it three times,” Schell told the Courier-Post. “The third time he said go back or you’ll be arrested. He said ‘That’s it, you’re arrested.'”
Police charged Schell with obstruction and two traffic violations — failing to turn on his car’s hazard lights and failing to follow the direction of a dismounted officer. He was issued a summons and released, but if convicted in municipal court, he could be fined up to $500 and serve up to 15 days in jail.
Schell, a Courier-Post photographer for 13 years, was traveling to an assignment when he pulled off the road to photograph the accident. He told the paper he has made “dozens” of similar stops in his career. “I see what I believe is a worthy news event. I pulled way by it and parked on the shoulder,” Schell said.
According to the paper, the only comments Schell made at the scene were to identify himself as a Courier-Post photographer.
State police spokesman John Hagerty told the paper that officers have an obligation to ensure the safety of the public and to protect the integrity of traffic accident scenes for investigations.
Hagerty said the trooper believed Schell and his parked car might have caused a hazardous situation, the paper reported.
Courier-Post Executive Editor William Hidlay told the paper that Schell is “a consummate professional who would never do anything to interfere with the police as they are doing their job.” Hidlay later told Editor & Publisher that Schell was “basically shanghaied and trooped off.”
According to the Courier-Post, Hagerty said: “State police endeavor to accommodate news photographers at all times. It’s unfortunate anytime official police action has to be taken at a scene against a news gatherer.” (New Jersey v. Schell)