By Jeremy Hogan
Bloomington, Indiana – January 18, 2024
A woman was struck by a vehicle around 6:17 p.m. near Indiana University. However, obtaining additional details was difficult. When I arrived, I saw a woman lying in the road, attended to by several emergency workers, including the Bloomington Fire Department, IU Lifeline Ambulance workers, and the Indiana University Police Department. The conscious and alert woman was loaded onto a stretcher and placed into an ambulance. Another woman stood on the sidewalk, and a black Audi sedan was stopped in the roadway.
A few minutes later a police officer administered a breathalyzer test to the woman, reporting zeros on the radio.
I captured photos of the injured woman being attended to but was careful not to photograph her face. I took additional photos in case she was seriously injured or died. I avoid displaying photos of deceased individuals or victims’ faces, aiming to carefully show my readers what happened.
While photographing a police vehicle, a young male police officer approached and instructed me to move behind a fire truck. Surrounded by people crossing the street, I found it interesting to be asked to move away from the scene. I asked if the officer was invoking the 25-foot rule passed by the Indiana legislature last year, and he confirmed it. I inquired about potential arrest, and he politely expressed reluctance but made it clear that I would be arrested if I didn’t leave.
Remembering an old editor’s advice that one can’t do their job behind bars, I decided to leave the scene, despite feeling that they lacked the right to make me leave. There was no police tape, I hadn’t crossed any police lines, and other people were present on the sidewalk and crossing the scene. Although police usually ask me to move for evidence protection or accident reconstruction, I was on the sidewalk, approximately 25 feet from where the woman was previously in the street. I never stepped into the street and captured images from a distance with a telephoto lens.
In South Bend, a citizen journalist was already arrested under the 25-foot rule, leading to a lawsuit by the ACLU against the City of South Bend. The lawsuit was unsuccessful, and the federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the Indiana law, allowing police to arrest individuals within 25 feet who refuse to move.
“We’re obviously disappointed in this decision, as we believe this new law gives unbridled discretion to law enforcement officers and invites content and viewpoint-based discrimination,” Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement. “With this ruling, police officers will continue to have unchecked authority to prohibit citizens from approaching within 25 feet of the officers to observe their actions, even if the actions of the citizens are not and will not interfere with the police.”
I left the scene to avoid arrest, having gathered the necessary information. Later, on the scanner, I learned that I was told to stand behind the fire truck because my cameras were making people nervous. The scanner traffic mentioned, “… get this individual back there with the camera, tell him to step behind the fire truck please, so he’s not (unintelligible) out these girls, it’s gonna be to your left”
The woman who had been taken away in the ambulance had a sprained ankle according to other radio dispatches from the police.
Editor’s note: Journalism isn’t free, and it comes with costs, and these days, the risk of arrest. If you value local journalism, please consider subscribing to this, or one of several other news outlets serving our community. Thank you in advance for your support of local journalism.
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