Photographer Records Police, Breaks No Laws, Gets Arrested

February 19, 2014 | Andy Cush

Shawn Thomas recorded the video above at the Utica Avenue 3/4 stop last Saturday. In it, we see a police officer standing on the platform with a calm civilian to whom he’s issued a summons. The clip proceeds without action for a few minutes, until Officer Efrain Rojas arrives.

First, Rojas begins recording with his iPhone. Then, he gets very close to Thomas — who’s standing 30 feet away — and begins a verbal altercation. The cop denies multiple requests for his name and shield number, which he’s required to give, and demands that Thomas leave. “This is my station right here. Get out of this train station,” he can be heard saying.

After some heated words, including an amusing exchange in which Thomas corrects Rojas on how many times he’s told the cop to “back the fuck off,” the camera goes dark.

According to Thomas, Rojas took his camera and deleted the footage, but the photographer was later able to recover it using the program Recuva. Later, in footage recorded by a bystander, we see him against the pavement with a cop on his back. Thomas says that in the meantime, Rojas threw him to the ground, causing him to bleed profusely. Eventually, he was arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, trespassing, and obstructing government administration, and was denied a phone call. He plans to sue.

“I’m confident that they don’t know the law,” Thomas told ANIMAL.

This isn’t the photographer’s first scuffle with police. Last year, he was arrested for taking pictures of a precinct in Bushwick — again, something he’s entirely within his right to do.

Thomas believes Rojas could feasibly charged with perjury for his police report, which alleges Thomas was in “very close proximity to the deponent and deponent’s partner,” and does not mention Rojas’s recording or the taking of Thomas’s camera.

“I’d like to see him be charged with a felony and terminated,” he says. “I want to expose them.”