KGO-TV Reporter and Photographer Handcuffed at Fire Scene

Video at:

Register Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007

KGO-TV’s ABC7 news director Kevin Keeshan said Wednesday he would be pressing criminal charges and filing a civil lawsuit against Napa County Sheriff’s deputies for briefly detaining two of his colleagues.

Keeshan said ABC7 news photographer Craig Southern and reporter Wayne Freedman were detained by deputies around 4 p.m. Wednesday over an argument about whether the journalists were too close to a fire burning around the 2600 block of Atlas Peak Road.

Representatives of the Napa County Sheriff’s Department did not return phone calls regarding the incident.

Keeshan said deputies broke one of the men’s cell phones in half after he used it to film the other man being detained. Keeshan also said deputies confiscated equipment.

“I’ve been a journalist for 30 years in California and never in my 30 years have we ever had a reporter or photographer arrested or detained for doing their job,” Keeshan said.

The journalists were filming the fire about a quarter mile south from the blaze from where a Napa Valley Register reporter and photographer were allowed by deputies to gather news near the base of the fire.

“We will pursue all legal actions,” Keeshan said, adding a Napa County Sheriff’s representative called to apologize and assure him the department would perform an internal investigation.

San Francisco Chronicle
Newsmen arrested reporting on fire
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Napa County sheriff’s deputies detain KGO-TV cameraman Craig Southern after he attempted to get video of firefighters battling a brush fire off Atlas Peak Road near the Silverado Country Club on Wednesday. Southern and KGO reporter Wayne Freedman (background), were arrested for allegedly failing to heed an officer’s instructions. They were later released and not cited. A dozen homes were saved from the fire, which burned about 60 acres. Some residents evacuated their homes voluntarily, but no mandatory evacuations were ordered. By early evening, the fire was 95 percent contained. FORUM discussion at:


  1. Jon Smythe says:

    Wow! Makes me proud to be an American? Does the People’s Republic of Napa County rewrite the Constitution often? What other civil liberties does the Napa County Sheriff restrict? Perhaps a lot of jail time would be in order for the power-abusing deputies!

  2. Chris says:

    I’ve been told by one of my reporters that used to work in SoCal that when it comes to fires, there’s actually a state law that permits media to get as close as they feel they can safely get… She’s been arrested much like these guys, and her station filed charges and won… that’s what the crew shooting the whole thing was referring to when the officer incorrectly stated that the arresting officers were right…

  3. Mike Durenberger says:

    The frame of the deputy taking Southern’s bread and butter is a frightening one.

    It’s sad to see people in authority abuse their power thinking they can control what people have a right to know, or, have the stupidity to carry out a personal problem at the expense of their department.

  4. caspernews says:

    just another example of what we as media have to put up with every day..i believe that every officer in the state of california should be required to go to media training courses so they know what right we have…but then is our constitutional right.

  5. John Casper says:

    My wife and I have been in the same situation.
    Here is our run in with a CHP officer during the deadly Esperanza fire in SoCal.

    Please notice that near the end of the video, the dispatcher can clearly be heard telling the officer that the media is allowed in. But he refuses to follow the order, all the while accusing us of ‘failing to follow a lawful order’.
    How do you fix screwed up logic like that?

    Not only has our situation not been resolved, the CHP officer in question has taken up the task of following us around when we are in his beat and citing us for traffic violations while we are actively working at scenes. (now how can we report on a crash without driving around the barricades? or stopping on the highway?)
    We have made attempts to contact everybody at the CHP station from the captain on down to no avail.
    I did get a conversation with his sergeant but needless to say our situation has not been resolved.

  6. Jeff Morgon says:

    First off I’m pissed after seeing that video. But let me say this. Sadly if you do not allow this guy to go the full route by arresting you for refusing to follow an UNLAWFUL order, you have NO case. I know the you pick your fights types will pipe up now, but I know what I am talking about. If you are media, and you have a lawful right to go where you are headed, you just go. Let HIM make all the mistakes and if it comes down to an arrest, those cuffs will cost him from 10 to 25 grand. For me, it was 13 grand and was well worth it. He was emotional, out of control, unprofessional, and gave you an unlawful order. A district attorney would never take a case like that and your attorney would have an open and shut case.

  7. Troy Case says:

    The same has happened to me so off to Federal Court we go for civil rights violations September 2007 unless they decide to settle before that. This took place back on August 10th 2002. Remember, tape is cheap, ROll It !!!!

  8. This is a clear misuse of power and the officers should be let go!

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