Purdue Student Photographer ‘Slammed to the Ground’ & Held By Police

In the immediate aftermath of the deadly shooting earlier this week at Purdue University, local police detained two individuals — the student shooting suspect and a student photographer “trying to fulfill his journalistic duties.”

As I posted yesterday, The Purdue Exponent student newspaper unleashed its reporting A-game to document the facts and fallout of the shooting which left a student dead and the campus at a standstill. Yet, not everything went smoothly for the staff at first. While attempting to capture some images at the scene of the alleged crime, the paper’s photo editor ended up in police custody and had his cameras confiscated. To be clear, while the detention is distressing, the confiscation is simply against the law.

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Ready for some craziness? The Student Press Law Center provides the 60-second rundown:

“A few minutes after reports of the shooting surfaced, the Exponent’s photo editor Michael Takeda headed to the area — just across the street from the newspaper’s offices — to photograph the scene. Seeking some additional photos from the inside, and not seeing any indication that the building was off-limits, Takeda said he walked into the nearby Materials Science and Electrical Engineering Building. From there, he walked onto a skywalk pathway connecting to the Electrical Engineering Building to take several photos and then turned around to retrace his steps back outside. At that point, Takeda said several police officers confronted him, pointing a stun-gun at him. They then forced him to the ground and confiscated the two cameras he had.”

To confirm, the Exponent describes Takeda as being “slammed to the ground” by the officers on the scene.

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According to the Exponent and SPLC, police then took Takeda to the station, holding and questioning him for two hours. He said during that time one officer told him “he hoped Takeda would be charged and kicked out of school, adding that Takeda would probably be ‘working at McDonald’s’ in a year.” Yikes.

Soon after, SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte intervened to help Takeda get his cameras back — given that their original seizure was illegal.

As LoMonte shared yesterday on a popular college media advisers’ list-serv:

“This is a good opportunity for a newsroom refresher on the federal Privacy Protection Act, which forbids government officials from seizing or searching the property of a journalist to look for unpublished material, including photos. I had a pleasant educational discussion with Purdue administrators in which it became apparent the university did not understand that the prohibition included seizing as well as searching — it was the university’s impression that no violation occurred unless police actually looked inside the camera, which is not what the law says.

“It’s good for anyone who might be assigned to cover an emergency interacting with law enforcement (or anyone supervising that coverage) to be aware of the broad protections of the PPA and to be prepared to explain that journalists’ work product cannot be confiscated or searched without a hearing before a judge (even an ordinary search warrant, which can be issued without a hearing, is inadequate).”

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