I was followed and threatened today
All for taking a photo (in extras). Long story ahead. Skip to the bottom for a summary.*
Today on my walk to work, I stopped to get my daily photo. I took photos of a detail on a large mural, some people standing in line outside the Valley Youth Theatre, and a building and clouds. After I took them, a man sitting next to me asked if I got anything good. I said I hope so.
He asked to see them, so I showed him the clouds photo. He said he had a similar camera. I asked what kind. He said Panasonic. I asked what model, and he didn't answer. This made me pause. Then he grabbed my camera, which made me really uncomfortable and leery, so I took it back, put it in my bag and latched the bag shut. He told me to show him the other photos. I said no.
I said I had to go, so I started to walk, but he stepped in front of me. Again, he told me to show him the photos. I side-stepped past some tall planters and walked away. I walked toward ASU's campus to be around more people instead of behind buildings where I usually cut through. He kept grabbing my bag's shoulder strap and telling me to stop. He told me to stop or he'd hit me in the face. He threatened me several times.
I started to yell. "This man is following me!" "This man is threatening me!" "Leave me alone!" "Go away!" He kept after me. I turned next to a dormitory tower and a row of restaurants. He grabbed my bag with a tight grip and grabbed my arm, spinning me toward him. The first thing I thought to do was kick him in the crotch. So I did, but it was weak, awkward, and it felt like I merely pressed his inner thigh with my foot. But he let go.
I crossed the street and walked into the campus bookstore, where I told the employees to call the police. He followed me in and kept up the threats. He told me to go outside to fight him. I got my phone out and took a video. This part is kind of amusing. He said his name (it's similar to a famous gangbuster) and that it would be ironic if I got beat up by a guy named (that name; I am not letting him find my Blipfoto page). I said, "That's not ironic. Do you know what ironic means?" Because the English language is a hill I apparently am willing to die on.
He told me to show him my camera with the "creepy pictures" and he'd leave me alone. I told him to leave me alone. He said, "Or what?" I said to go outside. He asked if I was threatening him. I said he's the one who threatened me. He said he was going to hit me in the face, he grabbed my camera bag, he grabbed my arm and turned me around. He denied this.
I saw a Phoenix police car drive by, so I ran past him and out the door, dropping my phone, which was still recording. I picked it up and shouted at the police to help. They pulled over and got out. About 15 seconds later, an ASU police officer showed up. They talked to him and to me, separately of course, and I saw one cop talk to some witnesses.
They got my information and asked if I wanted him arrested. I hesitated because I'm this goofy liberal who wants to give people the benefit of the doubt and not ruin his year or whatever. But then I got over that and said yes. I overheard another officer say he has warrants out. The police asked me about the photos, and I went Journalism 101 on them, saying I was in a public place, taking pictures of people and things in public where no one had a reasonable expectation of privacy. They let that go and did not ask to see the photos. I texted my boss to say I might be late, and I took a quick photo of him sitting on the curb while an officer spoke with him. I asked if I could go, they said yes, and I went to work.
After work, I looked him up. Arizona's got a great public records website. This man, who is exactly a year older than me, has a rap sheet stretching from 2004 to last week. He has been charged with DUIs, aggravated assault, driving on a suspended license, drug possession and something listed as PRISONER WHO COMMITS ASSAULT W/ INTENT TO RIOT.
Anyway, I'm fine physically. I'm kind of messed up mentally because I have never had to get ready to fight just because I took a photo. I've been stopped and questioned by security guards before, but no one had ever gotten me ready to fight or flee.
I got a ride home from work last night and will be taking a slightly different route on my walk to work for a while. But I'm OK. Just shaken up.
*I took a photo, a stranger threatened me and followed me two blocks. I flagged down the police. He was arrested.