‘Anchorage Daily News’ Photos Seized, Then Returned, By Police

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By: Joe Strupp

Police in Anchorage, Alaska seized more than 100 photos from the Anchorage Daily News Wednesday during a search of the newspaper, then returned them several hours later, concerned that investigators may have violated federal law by taking them, the Daily News reported Thursday.

In a story posted on the paper’s Web site today, the paper reported that police had executed a search warrant in an effort to take possession of the unpublished photos, which had images from the scene of a shooting at the Anchorage Football Stadium Sunday night.

“Police officials said they may seek court-ordered subpoenas for the photographs … which detectives believe may help them investigate the shooting that left a 21-year-old man hospitalized,” the paper stated.

Daily News editor Patrick Dougherty said in today’s paper that he had offered police more than three-dozen published photos, but would resist a subpoena for unpublished images.

“Because of intense interest in this event, we’ve published an extraordinary number of photographs from the shooting,” Dougherty said in the paper. “All of those photos have been offered to police — without a search warrant or a subpoena. I have made clear to police there is no information available in unpublished photos that isn’t available in the published ones.”

The Daily News reported that photographer Matthew Ellis had been taking photos of a baseball game at Mulcahy Stadium on Sunday night when “several bursts of shots rang out at the pick-up football game in the adjacent football stadium.” The paper stated that Ellis shot photographs of people fleeing the stadium, tending to a wounded man, and “simply looking on.”

The paper reported that detectives have viewed the published photos but believe there might be details in the unpublished photos that could be important in the case.

Dougherty said the paper shares an interest in solving crimes. “But, like almost all newspapers, the Daily News has a policy against providing unpublished material — whether it is notes, photographs, documents or tape recordings — to any external agencies or individuals,” Dougherty said in today’s story. “That policy allows our journalists to gather information we can deliver to the public, including the police. Without that ability, we cannot fulfill our First Amendment responsibility. It’s a principle we must defend, and can defend in this case without preventing police from doing their job.”

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