Reporter sues sheriff over confiscation of shooting videotape
CALIFORNIA–A reporter for an independent news agency filed a $10 million complaint against the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in early June after videotape that showed officers fatally shooting a suspect was taken from him, according to free!, a news service of the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center.
Reporter Eden Dankowski works for Professional News Coverage, an independent news agency that provides videotape to television stations. According to free!, Dankowski asserts in his June 4 complaint, filed with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, that the sheriff’s department violated his First Amendment rights by forcing him to turn over videotape of the fatal May 5 shooting.
The shooting occurred after officers engaged in a high-speed chase — through four counties, ending in Riverside County — in pursuit of a suspect who had been involved in a drug sale in Oceanside. Officers shot the suspect as he emerged from a friend’s house after a two-and-a-half hour standoff.
When the officers at the scene asked for Dankowski’s videotape to aid their investigation of the incident, he offered to make them a copy but refused to turn over the original. Dankowski told free! the officers then twisted his arm behind his back and took the videotape.
County officials have 45 days to respond to Dankowski’s complaint, after which Dankowski can file a lawsuit against the department.
According to free!, the sheriff’s department eventually returned the videotape to Dankowski, but it was too old to market to local stations by that time.