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Photographer, APD Clash at Crash Site

By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
    A KOB-TV photographer is planning to file a formal complaint against Albuquerque police officers who detained him while he was filming the aftermath of a balloon crash, station officials said Monday.
    Albuquerque police contend that cameraman Jeremy Fine— who has worked for KOB-TV, Channel 4, for more than four years— was asked to leave the area three times due to downed power lines, and he refused to do so.
    As a result, according to police reports, Fine was grabbed in an "escort" position, ordered to sit on a curb and detained "for investigation."
    Fine was never handcuffed or charged with a crime. He was eventually allowed to leave.
    KOB-TV has video and audio of the incident and station officials said they plan to meet with APD officials this week to discuss it.
    "If there is a police barricade we are not going to cross it," said KOB-TV news director Rhonda Aubrey. "But if there is an arbitrary line that applies only to the media and not the general public, we have a problem with that."
    According to police reports, on Sunday about 10 a.m. a hot-air balloon crashed into power lines in the 4400 block of Cutler NE.
    Several photographers arrived on the scene including Jake Schoellkopf, a freelance photographer for The Associated Press and the Journal, and were asked to stay behind a police car that was parked on Cutler.
    Schoellkopf told the Journal that Fine arrived after the order was given and decided to walk past the police car to get a better view. Schoellkopf followed.
    According to police reports, officers then saw Fine interviewing a witness who was sitting in a truck. They approached him and asked him to "wrap up" the interview.
    When he was done, the officers asked him to leave. Schoellkopf said he too was asked to leave, and he did.
    But, according to police reports, Fine refused to go and told officers he "knew his rights and could go wherever the public could go."
    After police officers had Fine and his camera on the sidewalk, they told him that they were trying to get everyone out of the area and if he refused to leave he could be charged with refusing to obey an officer.
    The officers called Fine's supervisor.
    "Our officer would not ask him to leave unless there was a safety concern," Albuquerque police spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said. "He was asked to leave as well as everyone else until there was no longer a safety concern."