BBC Journalists Covering Virginia Shooting Forced To Delete Footage

Journalists say that they were threatened by Virginia police

Virginia shooting

Two BBC journalists who were covering the Virginia shooting on Wednesday, say that they were threatened by Virginia police after filming the scene where gunman Bryce Williams crashed his vehicle and shot himself.

They say a police officer threatened to confiscate their camera and car if they did not delete their footage.

RT reports: White House reporter Tara McKelvey and videojournalist Fraz Strasser were among the first to arrive at the scene on I-66, where Bryce Williams – also known as Vester Flanagan – crashed his vehicle and shot himself hours after killing journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward during a live news broadcast in Virginia.

Strasser tweeted that he and McKelvey were told the footage “could be evidence,” and that they were forced to delete it. He added that a cop by the name of Officer Clark threatened to tow their car because it was apparently illegally parked.

Strasser said the officer watched him delete his file and let him go. Another officer reportedly “apologized and said we have to understand,” he tweeted. He noted, however, that the fact that law enforcement wanted to delete “evidence” made him “question their reasoning.”

Strasser said that he decided to delete the footage because “it was either not being able to work for the rest of the day, without camera or car, or delete crappy footage from far away.” He added that he “chose the latter.”

Both Strasser and McKelvery were able to recover some photos from the moment they were asked to delete their footage.

Virginia police officers acted unlawfully when ordering the  journalists to delete images from their cameras after Wednesday’s on-air shootings near Roanoke, the attorney for a photojournalism group alleged Thursday, according to Poynter

In a letter addressed to a spokesperson for Virginia State Police, Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel National Press Photographers Association, calls the forcible deletion “unlawful” and calls on the agency to investigate the matter.

“The NPPA is extremely troubled by what appears to an attempt to prevent them from covering the story or document police activity,” Osterreicher writes. “For us this is the worst example of a prior restraint of free speech and of the press. While I understand tensions were high this misguided and illegal action was an abridgment of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment.”