The Berkshire Eagle reports on an incident that happened last week in North Adams:
Allan R. Benoit, 31, of Brayton Hill Terrace, was allegedly threatening a group of at least 20 children under the age of 14 at his apartment unit about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when police were called to the scene, according to a report filed by Officer Jason Wood.
Benoit allegedly began swearing at police and approached Wood with clenched fists in an "assaultive manner." Wood then created distance between him and Benoit as he "knew an attack was imminent" and engaged his Taser, according to the report.
According to The Eagle, a witness recorded the incident on his cellphone, but the police confiscated it:
Police seized a bystander's cellphone, which they believe captured video of the entire incident.
"Unfortunately the gentleman who had the phone was not cooperative," said North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio. "There are provisions in the law that allow officers to seize that phone."
Police must first write a search warrant on the phone before it can be forensically examined, Cozzaglio said.
I would be very interested in knowing exactly why the police took the phone. Police can seize a cellphone without warrants if they believe it contains evidence of a crime, but only under very limited circumstances. The photo rights blog Photography is Not a Crime points to guidelines published by the federal Department of Justice in 2012 which state that police require exigent circumstances to seize a phone without a warrant such as a strong belief that the evidence will be destroyed. The article in The Eagle makes no mention at all of any exigent circumstances.
Let's hope the video doesn't get destroyed by the police like in the George Thompson case in Fall River earlier this year.
The Eagle goes on to mention a second video:
A separate cellphone video, which shows a police officer taking down a suspect, purportedly Benoit, with a Taser, drew many comments from Facebook users after being posted last week.
"I'm very concerned by what I saw in the cellphone video," Joanna Arkema, the Pittsfield attorney representing Benoit, said when asked for comment on Monday.
The Eagle did not link to this video and I wasn't able to find it. A number of people who commented on the Facebook page for The Eagle claim to have seen it. Some said the video showed the police using unnecessary force which provides another possible explanation for why the police confiscated the other cellphone.
One comment on Facebook said that the video is no longer online, so it may have been deleted. If that's not the case, I'd appreciate it if someone who has seen the video posted a link to it in the comments.
Update (same day as the original post): Here is the video that was uploaded to Facebook:
It shows Benoit standing some distance away from Wood with his hands at his sides while the officer points a taser at him and ultimately uses it.