Reno Gazette-Journal’s photo director Tim Dunn, a 21-year veteran on the Nevada newspaper, was on assignment covering a fire with two cameras last week when he was issued a citation for obstructing and resisting while performing his duties, observes Grumpy Editor.
Dunn filed a formal complaint citing use of excessive force by sheriff’s deputies. He said he was detained for more than a half hour after being handcuffed.
Attired in yellow protective gear, including jacket, goggles and helmet --- which fire authorities say a journalist should wear for safety when covering fires --- Washoe County sheriff’s deputies, after an investigation, on Wednesday said he was cited because he entered an active fire scene without authorization and resisted deputies’ commands as they tried to confirm his media affiliation.
Furthermore, a sheriff’s captain accused Dunn of impersonating a firefighter because of the yellow protective gear he was wearing. (One seldom sees a “firefighter” with two cameras at a fire scene.)
Dunn, in his complaint, said he identified himself as a journalist with Reno’s daily newspaper.
The 60-year-old photographer entered an “active fire scene” --- a brush fire that destroyed two homes --- because he was there for his newspaper. And it’s hard to believe that a veteran photog, with more than two decades at the Gazette-Journal, was completely unknown to firemen and deputies on scene.
One of the deputies in the incident, in defending their action, said Dunn’s “continued refusal to follow instructions and continued efforts to resist us forced us to guide him to the ground.” The photog said a boot came down on his back and a deputy pushed his face into the gravel.
See a photo of Dunn’s large scrape on his right cheek and on his right hand after being “guided to the ground” here.
Despite all this, June 23 and June 27 stories in the Gazette-Journal, made no mention of the publisher or editor backing up their veteran photo director.
A court date in Sparks (Nev.) Justice Court is slated for Aug. 1.