The freelance videographer who videotaped two Seattle police officers kicking and stomping a prone Hispanic man, sparking an internal police investigation, is suspected of stealing two $30,000 video cameras from a local TV station.
On Thursday, Pierce County sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at the man’s Tacoma residence , where they recovered two cameras and arrested him on suspicion of first-degree possession of stolen property and investigation of possession of marijuana, sheriff’s detective Ed Troyer said. The News Tribune is not naming the man because he has not been charged with a crime.
Investigators also found digital chips alleged to have been stolen and are reviewing the footage on them, Troyer said.
Troyer said the man is suspected of stealing the video footage from KCPQ-TV (also known as Q-13); it showed Seattle police gang unit detective Shandy Cobane kicking a detainee and threatening to beat him during a robbery investigation in April.
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When KCPQ delayed airing the video, the man posted the video on YouTube and later sold it to KIRO-TV, which aired the video May 6. KCPQ severed its relationship with the man, who was a freelancer for the station.
At the time, he said he wasn’t on the clock for KCPQ when he shot the footage. But station managers disagreed.
“It was always our contention he shot the video with our camera, and therefore, it was our video,” KCPQ general manager Pam Pearson said.
The man accused KCPQ, which airs the fugitive show “Washington’s Most Wanted,” of being too cozy with police. In May interviews with The Seattle Times, he said Q-13 managers didn’t air the video because they said it didn’t look egregious enough.
Station managers said they weren’t suppressing the video but were doing further investigation before airing it. The station later aired it.
The station’s news director resigned and a senior assignment editor was fired over the controversy.
Meanwhile, Seattle police launched an internal investigation into the April 17 incident; Cobane and another officer could face discipline.
During a recent equipment inventory, station employees discovered that two cameras were missing from a storage room and suspected the man, who had worked a late shift and had access to the equipment, according to Troyer and Pearson.
The KCPQ cameras have unique features, including radio antennas that are built “inhouse,” Pearson explained. Several camera crews working for other TV stations saw the man “shooting video with what appeared to be our camera” while on assignment, and they forwarded photos to KCPQ, Pearson said.
Managers reported the theft to Seattle police, who requested that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department take over the investigation to avoid any appearance of a conflict, Troyer said.
Sheriff’s detectives wanted to make sure their case was airtight and had a judge review it and issue a search warrant, he said.
“We recovered two high-end production cameras,” Troyer said. “The probability is that the video was stolen, and that could become part of the case.”
The man was booked into the Pierce County Jail and later released after posting bail, Troyer said. The man could not immediately be reached for comment.