Onetime Raw Story freelancer arrested in Miami after photo shoot
Miami freelance reporter and photojournalist Carlos Miller, who has in the past written for RAW STORY, was arrested on the evening of Feb. 20, 2007 while photographing police at the scene of a car accident. On foot and allegedly carrying $20,000 worth of equipment, Miller was on assignment for an online news site called Category 305.
Miller says that he was “working on an article about the ongoing transition of Biscayne Blvd. from seedy motel strip to trendy urban center.” Miller says that he was first assaulted by the officers, who he believes then arrested him on trumped-up charges to cover up the assault. The arrest took place at Biscayne Blvd. and 67th Street.
Miller happened onto the scene of what appeared to be a car accident, where a group of five police officers was questioning a suspect on the “torn up” side of Biscayne which is closed to traffic. He says he was roughly 20 feet away when he began shooting photos of the fracas and was soon approached by a female officer, whom he would later identify as Officer Reid.
According to Miller, Reid asked if she could help him; Miller says he then identified himself by name and stated that he was a reporter on assignment for Category 305. Reid, says Miller, told him that the situation was “a private matter” and that he needed to “keep moving.”
“It’s a public road,” Miller says he told the officer. Miller says that he and Reid repeatedly went back and forth, with her demanding that he leave and him stating that he was on “public property and not breaking any laws.” He says he kept explaining to the officer that he was “simply doing my job.”
Miami police did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
According to Miller, things became violent when the officers on the scene appeared to have “lost interest” in the person they were questioning and turned their attentions on him. The commanding police officer, whom Miller would later identify as Sgt. Rahming, allegedly grabbed Miller by the elbow and escorted him to the other side of Biscayne Blvd. while Miller continued to snap photos.
The police report tells a very different story about the arrest. The report claims Miller was causing a commotion in the middle of Biscayne Blvd. when police approached him and that he did not identify himself or state he was a journalist. Miller is described as blocking traffic and refusing to move to the sidewalk, causing the already heavy traffic to come to a near standstill as motorists slowed and stopped to see what the commotion was about.
The report further alleges that Miller refused police orders and became violent, saying “this is a public road and I can do what the hell I want.” When Miller was then told to place his hands behind his back, he resisted, according to the report, “by pulling his arms away.” However, he was then arrested without further incident.
Miller told RAW STORY that he was not in the middle of the street and denied being violent. “How do you ‘get violent’ while taking pictures?” asked Miller. “The last thing I would do is get violent against five agitated police officers.” He added, “The officers lied several times in their report in order to justify their arrest.”
Other officers followed and appeared angry that he was still photographing them, he says. He claims that one attempted to “trip kick” him so that he would fall, but Miller maintained his balance, concerned that a fall would damage his equipment. At that point, says Miller, an officer stated, “He is resisting arrest.”
Miller recounts that he said over and over, “I am not resisting arrest,” but to no avail. According to Miller, the officers then “pounced on me, slamming me to the ground and twisting my arms behind me.”
“One officer grabbed the back of my head and repeatedly pounded my forehead into the sidewalk. Another officer continually pulled my right hand backwards in a 90 degree angle, causing me to scream out in pain.”
Miller says that he “pleaded with them to ease up,” but that one officer at the scene, whom Miller has not yet identified, said “If you don't shut up, I'm going to tase you.” After that, he says he “didn't say another word.”
Several police officers then allegedly dragged Miller to a police vehicle and “manhandled” him, confiscating his camera, batteries, memory cards,and notebooks. Miller was arrested and charged with five counts of failure to obey a police officer, with an additional count each for obstructing justice, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
In a written statement issued to RAW STORY, Miller notes that he has been a professional journalist for more than ten years, having spent many years covering police activities around the country, and has never been “arrested or assaulted by police officers on any of my assignments until now.”
Of Colombian descent, Miller has covered the police beat for the Arizona Republic and has done national stories for People Magazine as well as writing for RAW STORY.
Miller points out several internal discrepancies in the police report, where it appears to conflict not only with Miller’s allegations but also with the officers’ own accounts of the arrest. For example, one part of the police report states that Miller was in the middle of Biscayne Blvd. when the police first noticed him yet later states that the police escorted him to the middle of the street.
Miller’s photographs of the arrest show that he was on or near the sidewalk, while were standing in the street, with the “middle of the street” and traffic behind them. Additional photos place him roughly 20 feet away from the police as Officer Reid approached. One of those photographs, originally printed by Category 305, appears at right. More photographs are available here.
As of press time, neither the police public information officer nor Lt. David Magnusson, the commanding officer for Miami's Upper East Side, had returned this reporter's calls and emails requesting comment.
Miller has consulted with various lawyers about the case, including a lawyer assigned to him by the Society of Professional Journalists and the ACLU. He has also talked to criminal lawyers about bringing charges of false arrest and excessive use of police force.
Category 305 has published Miller’s account on their Web site, in hopes that other outlets will pick up the story.
As for Miller, he believes he was arrested because he was taking pictures of the officers.
“They arrested me because they did not appreciate me taking their photos,” Miller says, citing his “First Amendment right to do so.”