ST. LOUIS • A Turkish journalist sued the St. Louis County police Monday, claiming he was thrown to the pavement and arrested for photographing a cop who was pointing a gun at protesters in Ferguson.
Bilgin Şaşmaz, a journalist with the Turkish Anadolu Agency, was taking pictures of St. Ann Police Officer Ray Albers during protests Aug. 19. Albers was pointing his rifle at protesters and threatened at least one.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, says that an unidentified St. Louis County police officer threw Şaşmaz “violently” to the ground, and handcuffed and arrested him for "refusal to disperse."
The suit says that Şaşmaz repeatedly said “Press, Press” to identify himself. Caucasian reporters and photographers who were also documenting the incident were not arrested, it says. His camera, flash and two lenses were damaged and confiscated, the suit claims.
The suit cites violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments as well as state law claims including battery and false imprisonment. It names county police and the officer who arrested Şaşmaz, who they identify only as "John Doe."
“Mr. Şaşmaz should not have been treated like a criminal when he was only doing his job of reporting the unrest in Ferguson,” said Tony Rothert, ACLU legal director, in a prepared statement. “Democracy suffers whenever the police hinder our news gatherers.”
Albers, the St. Ann officer who was shown on video pointing his gun at protesters, later resigned from the force.