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Police try to confiscate cell phone video of arrest

April 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Vallejo man says his civil rights were violated by a police officer who demanded his cell phone and then put the man in handcuffs when he didn't comply.

Lonnel Duchine was in the garage of his Vallejo home Saturday when he recorded the arrest of some juveniles in his neighborhood from his cell phone. Duchine says he and a friend were working in the garage when they heard sirens.

"Me and my buddy, we opened the garage and noticed that the police officers were getting some juveniles out at gunpoint," said Duchine.

Duchine turned his cell phone camera toward several police officers who were ordering four young people out of a white car. Suddenly, from the right of the frame on the video shot by Duchine, a Vallejo police officer is seen demanding his phone. "I'm going to take this phone because it's going to be evidence."

"The officer drove up and basically said he was taking my phone for evidence and I was like, well why?" said Duchine.

Rather than give it to the officer, he handed the phone to the friend who took it into the house. The officer then put Duchine in handcuffs.

"I don't think that he had probable cause to arrest me, but he did," he said.

Duchine was cited for interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties and released. He never did give police his phone, but he did post the video on YouTube.

"This is wrong on so many different levels," said ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson. "There's an egregious violation of the Fourth Amendment here, there's certainly First Amendment implications, and there is a common misconception among police officers."

"On the surface of things, we do have some concerns about what we saw," Vallejo police spokesman Jeff Bassett told ABC7. "We are currently conducting an internal inquiry into the incident. We're prepared to take appropriate or corrective action if necessary."

"As a citizen, a law-abiding citizen, I'm a notary, I'm a mental health administrator, and I feel like I was very much violated," said Duchine.

Vallejo police tell ABC7 that it is unlikely they will actually formally file any charges against Duchine. As for the police action that occurred on the street that Saturday, it turns out the young people the police stopped were not the robbery suspects they officers were looking for. They, too, were released.


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