A man doing some freelance news gathering for the Lacey Reporter at a New Jersey accident scene found himself in a tough spot during a debate over his rights, as a reporter, with a New Jersey police detective.
Andrew Flinchbaugh was taken into custody after refusing to turn over his camera to the insistent detective from the Ocean County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office, reports the Asbury Park Press. The freelancing Andrew Flinchbaugh was gathering video footage of the violent car crash when the incident with the detective unfolded.
Below is some of the footage Flinchbaugh captured at the accident scene.
Flinchbaugh, 23, of Lacey, New Jersey, was officially booked for obstructing administration of law.
The debate over the camera was recorded by Flinchbaugh on his smartphone, unbeknownst to the detective, David Margentino, who arrests Flinchbaugh as the 10 minute and 37 seconds of video comes to an end.
The face-off between Detective Margentino and Andrew Flinchbaugh revolved around Flinchbaugh’s repeated refusal to hand over his camera, which Detective Margentino claimed was required so they could use the footage in their crash investigation.
Flinchbaugh does offer a copy of the footage during the exchange, but that’s not enough for Margentino, and their confrontation continues to escalate.
Despite the smartphone camera being pointed down, making the footage sideways, the audio of the interaction between Flinchbaugh and the detective has made the video go viral, raising ongoing questions about overly aggressive law enforcement violating the rights of citizens and freelance journalists.
At one point, when Margentino says he’s taking the camera, the argument between he and Flinchbaugh begins coming to a head.
“Well then, you’re going to have a lawsuit on your hands… You’re not seizing my camera, it’s just that simple. Listen, would you be doing this if this was a corporate media crew?”
“Andrew, let me explain to you what your options are…” says Margentino, trying to assert control over the situation. But Flinchbaugh doesn’t want to listen.
“I know what my options are,” says Flinchbaugh. “I’m free to walk away any time I want.”
“Absolutely, you can leave right now,” says the detective. “That’s fine with me.”
“With the camera,” says Flinchbaugh.
“No, you’re not taking the camera,” says Margentino.
The two continue sparring back and forth, Margentino obviously not pleased with his authority being so readily challenged, until Flinchbaugh finally tells him he’s just going to have to arrest him.
“Don’t push me like that,” says Margentino.
“I’m not pushing you, I’m not going to give you my camera,” says Flinchbaugh.
And that’s when the cuffs come out, Margentino finishing his salty conversation with Flinchbaugh by telling the freelance journalist to put his hands behind his back.
“I had been documenting an emergency response to a (multiple vehicle accident) on Dover Road for over a half hour,” writes Flinchbaugh in his YouTube video’s introduction. “I was making my way back to my car when I was stopped by Detective Margentino of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. The detective requested another officer get a property receipt and asked me to walk over to the front of a police vehicle. This is what transpired.”
Detective Margentino may have had a personal attachment to the accident, as an individual involved was reportedly a fellow detective in the prosecutor’s office, according to CNET.
The accident victim was seriously injured in the one-car accident, and airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, so if it was a colleague of Margentino, there definitely would have been an emotional element added to the altercation between he and Flinchbaugh.
Regardless, Flinchbaugh and his camera were released, Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato telling NBC 10 that the charge against Andrew Flinchbaugh would likely be dropped.
“We never would have looked at the video without getting a search warrant… And based on our information, we didn’t have the legal right to get the search warrant at that point.”
All to say, Andrew Flinchbaugh will likely be continuing his freelance reporting, camera in hand.
[Image via NBC 10, Video via YouTube]