Skip to content

Photographers covering aftermath of school shooting detained on tribal land

Post categories

  1. Newsgathering

    News Media Update         MINNESOTA         Newsgathering         March 23, 2005    

Photographers covering aftermath of school shooting detained on tribal land

  • Photographers with The Associated Press and Getty Images were detained and had their photographic equipment confiscated by tribal authorities.

March 23, 2005 — Two photographers were handcuffed and detained Tuesday after taking pictures of a roadside memorial in Red Lake, Minn., site of Monday’s school shooting that killed nine and injured seven.

The photographers, J. Pat Carter of The Associated Press and Scott Olson of Getty Images, were detained by officers on the tribal land after taking pictures of a roadside memorial while in a moving vehicle, AP reported.

Tribal police thought a gun was in the photographers’ vehicle and had their firearms drawn when detaining the photographers, AP reported. Carter and Olson were handcuffed briefly and released, but some of their equipment was confiscated and had not been returned by Wednesday afternoon, David Tomlin, AP’s assistant general counsel said in an interview. Carter’s camera and an electronic disk and Olson’s waist pouch containing photographic equipment was taken, AP reported. That equipment was returned on Wednesday to Carter and Olson.

Tomlin criticized the detention as “over-the-top, dangerous and unprovoked.” Francisco “Pancho” Bernasconi, Director of Photography for Getty Images, said in an interview he was “surprised” and “disappointed” that the local authorities confiscated the photographers’ equipment, calling the incident an “overreaction.” Tomlin said that AP is considering legal action, while Bernasconi discounted any thought of legal action by Getty Images.

The First Amendment and federal laws are difficult to enforce on tribal lands because of Red Lake Reservation’s political status as a sovereign nation and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “domestic dependent nation,” AP reported.

Because of the influx of reporters to the area, Red Lake authorities have issued warnings that in non-tribal communities might be considered illegal. “Reporters and photographers were told . . . not to knock on doors to speak with residents and were ordered not to leave the main highway that runs through town,” AP reported.

Carter and Olson believed they were acting consistent with the warnings issued by the tribal authorities, Tomlin said.

Leaders of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians also said the media would be confined to the parking lot of Red Lake’s jail, the Pioneer Press of St. Paul reported.

Those issued warnings have dampened the ability to cover the news, said Bernasconi. That sentiment was seconded by his colleague Beth Mitchell who commented that the Red Lake tragedy is not receiving the same coverage and not resonating as 1999’s Columbine High School shooting tragedy in Littleton, Colo., which claimed 15 lives.


© 2005 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Return to: RCFP Home; News Page