By: M.L. STEIN
Photographer Arrested, Jailed p.16
THE MOUNTIES GOT their woman ? who happened to be a newspaper photographer shooting a bloody murder scene at a karaoke club.
Liz Hargreaves of the Nanaimo Times in British Columbia was arrested recently, clapped in jail overnight and faces charges of obstructing police officers.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), she said, also confiscated six rolls of her exposed and unexposed film, and refused to let her telephone a friend. She was released in the morning.
The film was returned the next night to the thrice-weekly Thomson paper, but past the deadline for their use. A Thomson daily on Vancouver Island, the Victoria Times Colonist, was able to publish the photos the next day.
One man was knifed to death and five others were wounded by gunfire or stabbing at Top Karaoke Club in an apparent drug brawl that spilled into the street. The Colonist called it possibly “Nanaimo’s biggest crime story of the year.”
The 29-year-old Hargreaves, who is working at her first newspaper job since graduating from journalism school recently, was attending a nearby house party when she heard the commotion. She grabbed her camera and was the first journalist on the scene as cops and ambulances rushed in.
“I started shooting and the police began pushing me back,” she told E&P. “I moved back and then returned. That’s when I was arrested.”
Hargreaves said the crime area was not taped off and she was not interfering with the police or ambulance crews.
Bud Bechdholt, superintendent of the RCMP’s Nanaimo detachment, had a different version when interviewed.
“Her conduct was outrageous,” he contended. “She was interfering with police and ambulance people. Not only that, but we had to rescue her from irate Vietnamese who were friends of the victims. There was substantial aggravation. Miss Hargreaves was warned repeatedly to step back. She finally had to be removed. You must realize this was a scene of pandemonium.”
Bechdholt said Hargreaves was allowed to phone a lawyer but declined.
He stated that authorities were moving to charge Hargreaves with obstructing police officers in the line of duty.
“My conduct was not outrageous,” Hargreaves retorted. “I was just doing my job at an important news event. I was a good 20 feet away from the ambulance crew and nowhere near the cops.”
She acknowledged that officers ordered her several times to leave the scene. “But I moved back when they told me to,” the photographer added.
Hargreaves said that at one point a man covered her camera with his coat, saying, “Don’t take pictures of my friends.”
Times publisher Roy Fisher contended it was the police who were “outrageous.”
“They had no business stopping someone from taking pictures,” he said.
A Times editorial asserted that Hargreaves’ arrest was in violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights, which provides for freedom of the press.
“The events of the past weekend are about more than a missing roll of film or a photographer’s arrest,” the editorial went on. “It involves the public’s right to know and our ability to inform by being allowed to perform the necessary duties within reason.”
Fisher speculated that the Crown Counsel will not formally charge Hargreaves “if they’re smart.”
“If they do, it will be across Canada in seconds,” he predicted.
The Times attorney, Don Farquhar, said he will file a protest of Hargreaves’ arrest with the British Columbia Police Commission, which has the power to discipline police officers.
Asked about the possibility of prosecuting Hargreaves, Farquhar replied, “I would be surprised if they did.”
Paul Willcocks, Vancouver Island group publisher for Thomson Newspapers, termed the Times’ staffer’s jailing and film seizure “morally and legally reprehensible.”
Gerry Porter, executive secretary of the British Columbia Press Council, described Hargreaves’ arrest as a serious violation of her civil rights.
“I’m appalled by what the police did,” he told the Times Colonist. “Maybe we should remind police that the second part of the Charter of Rights is freedom of the press . . . . It’s what you expect in the Soviet Union or a banana republic, not here.”
?(Photographer Liz Hargreaves explains details of the events leading to her arrest) [Photo & caption]