Civil Liberties

Camera-Shy Cop Draws Gun on Cellphone-Wielding Suburbanite

"Are you some kind of a constitutionalist crazy guy?" the officer asks.



Throughout the five-minute video, the police officer remains calm, while the man he is approaching becomes increasingly agitated. Then again, the cop is holding a gun, while the man is holding nothing but a cellphone, which he is using to record the encounter. The man, Don McComas, who is standing in his own driveway in Rohnert Park, California, thinks drawing a gun is a disproportionate response to someone whose only offense is taking out his cellphone and pressing "record" (something he has every right to do). Most viewers probably will agree.

Exactly what prompts the cop to get out of his patrol car, aside from his annoyance at being recorded, is mysterious. Before getting out, he picks up his own camera to take a picture of McComas. Later, when McComas asks why he decided to approach him, the cops says, "You're taking a picture of me. I'm taking a picture of you."

But once the cop has left his car, he claims to be concerned that McComas is armed. "Take your hand out of your pocket," he says repeatedly, moving slowly toward McComas with his gun drawn. "I just want to make sure you don't have a weapon." McComas refuses to take his hand out of his pocket, saying he has done nothing wrong and the officer has no legitimate reason to question him or order him around. "You have your gun out because you're a police officer, and you're trying to intimidate me," McComas says. "This is going all over YouTube."

As far as the cop is concerned, it's McComas who is being unreasonable. "Are you some kind of a constitutionalist crazy guy or something like that?" he asks. After a few minutes, the cop gives up, conceding he has no legal grounds to detain McComas. He gets back into his patrol car and leaves, saying, "You go ahead and have a nice day and put it on YouTube."

McComas, who posted the video on Facebook last week, already had a bone to pick with local police. "You guys have done enough to my family," he tells the cop in the video. "Your station is corrupt." On Facebook, McComas says, "I am not anti police however the lies and distrust I've encountered from the Rohnert Park & Petaluma Police over the last 15 months is something I wouldn't ever believe if I heard it from someone else. This is just a time I was smart enough to hit record as I was approached at my home." He says he started recording because the officer stopped in front of his house for no apparent reason, then circled back and "stopped facing me for a few minutes, doing nothing but pointing straight at me/my house."

Whatever pre-existing grudge McComas may have had, the cop, who told him "I don't even know who you are," initiated the confrontation for no legitimate reason that he could articulate, then needlessly escalated it by drawing his gun and walking toward McComas, all the while posing as the calm voice of authority. That much is clear from the video, which is now available on YouTube as well as McComas' Facebook page and has created a bit of a stir in the local press.

"We've been made aware of this matter and we are taking it seriously," Rohnert Park Mayor Amy Ahanotu and City Manager Darrin Jenkins say in a statement issued on Tuesday." We understand the concerns that have been raised by our community and others and we want the public to know that your trust in law enforcement in our City is a top priority. As a result, we will conduct an internal review to verify that appropriate protocols were followed. We will also review our protocols because we want to make sure we are using the best practices for the highest level of safety for both our officers and the community."

[Thanks to Doc Mike for the tip.]