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This could be interesting and set a dangerous precedent


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#1 JDHelicopterPilot

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 22:39

ENG Pilot may be charged


I don't agree with this one bit. If they(police) really had a problem with aircraft over the scene then they should have spoken to the FAA about putting up a TFR. I can understand the tension at this particular scene as 4 officers were killed and I am sure they didn't want their fellow officers that were gunned down plastered all over the news. None the less, they are in the wrong to file charges against the pilot or new director.

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#2 Lindsey

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 22:48

Agree 100%. I live 15 minutes away from where this happened and actually just got back from paying my respects near the crime scene. I'm basically a mixture of speechless and very, very pissed off. To those that don't know what happened...four police officers were huddled around a table in a local coffee shop on their laptop computers, just chatting before they were to start their shift. This $#%#$ walks in and shoots the four of them point-blank, only one of the officers had time to react and struggled with the suspect all the way out the door before he succumbed to his injuries. All four died.

I think it is one thing for the police to REQUEST the chopper to stay back for obvious reasons, but I don't think they have a case to charge the station/pilot with. Freedom of the press and all.

Whatever. I'm more angry about the cold-blooded execution of four officers who were just having some f*cking coffee.

#3 Goldy

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 23:03

Wow, I havent turned on the TV for a couple days, so I had not heard of any of this. I can't say enough how sorry I am to hear of the fallen officers.

Keeping on track, the way I see it working in LA, the press helicopters automatically fly over any scene around 1000 AGL, giving them a great view and giving the PD a safe vertical distance. I have been subject to press getting in my face at a crime scene when they want to be closer, and I know many can be quite the pain in the *ss. That said, I would think that a simple pilot to pilot conversation would keep the press high enough to be out of the way, but low enough that they can still get their shot.

Of course, the FAA won't get involved here as there is no FAA violations. The local PD can try to file a charge, but if the press ship did in fact respond to requests in some fashion...like increase its altitude, then this won't go anywhere IMHO.

BTW- Is the suspect dead yet?

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Edited by Goldy, 29 November 2009 - 23:03.

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#4 Lindsey

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 23:05

BTW- Is the suspect dead yet?

Goldy


Still on the run. There are cops EVERYWHERE. From everywhere too. I saw police vehicles from halfway across the state. They are all patrolling. There are police choppers in the sky, as well as State Patrol fixed-wing aircraft flying quite low.

#5 yzchopper

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 23:47

King5 News out of Seattle says there is a person of interest they are looking for. Here is a small snipet from the King5 website:

Pierce county sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said they are looking for Maurice Clemmons, 37.

Troyer said Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas, including aggravated robbery and theft. He has also recently been arrested and charged in Pierce County for assault on a police officer and for rape of a child.

Troyer said Clemmons is one of several people investigators would like to talk to and can't be called a suspect at this point.


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#6 delorean

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 10:52

I don't think their charges will hold any water. The pilot doesn't point the camera, nor put the footage on the air. All he does is fly the helicopter IAW the company GOM & FARs--which he was doing. The cops cannot tell him what to do or where to go, they have no authority over the air above them.....all they can do is REQUEST that a TFR gets put up. And if it's put up while you're in it, and you were not told about it after your briefing the FAA is going to have a tough time getting you.

Now, if they would have *asked* him nicely to back off a mile or two, or called the station and request that they not stream the video, the station they should give their request serious consideration (to maintain a working relationship.)

The few times I've been in this situation, they just ask if we could maintain X miles away or ft above, and we honor the request. The camera can read license plates from 3000 ft, so it's not a big deal. It's more of a safety issue for us since the police helicopters are right over the scene low level--we can hold back out of everyone's way. When TFRs go up, they police call us on the air-to-air, or will call the station, and they'll relay it to us. Then we go over the top, or sit on the edge of it.

I've been flying when we showed dead bodies on the air, or other [ethically] questionable material, but it not my job to judge it. I put the helicopter where the customer wants it--or as close to that spot as I legally and safely put it. The cameraman and folks back at the station control the shot and what's aired.

Anybody remember the police helicopter that "pulled over" the 300 (or Hiller?) in the SW last year? Another case of the cops thinking they own the sky (in addition to the highways, your vehicle, your house, etc.)

#7 Darren Hughes

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 12:31

Disclaimer time: I'm married to a cop, and I hate the press in this country!!

Having said that. I would have a hard time believing that any ENG pilot wouldn't try to provide a safe clearance, as per usual for the cops below. I think these guys are just super sensitive to this particular situation and have lost the run of themselves. If the pilot was performing normal ENG orbits or hovering over the scene of a bunch of civilians that got shot, the cops would have no problem with it. Typical cop behavior.

It sounds like the guys in the coffee shop were targeted by this monster for a reason. Probably for doing some "real cop work". May they rest in peace.

#8 Lindsey

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 13:11

Just to add to this, the News Station tacked this onto the end of the article covering the shootings:

Editor's note: During the coverage of this developing story, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department has alleged that its investigation into the shootings was hampered by KING TV's news helicopter, which was flying over the Lakewood area. KING TV maintains that its aircraft was operating in compliance with FAA flight rules at the time and that the aircraft was moved from the area.

#9 kodoz

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 13:45

There was (and I think there still is) a TFR over that area, up to 1500 MSL. The station was also in contact with the police, and said they complied with police requests, but weren't really given any specific direction on how to make them happy. I doubt the cops on the scene are accustomed a crime of this magnitude--against civilians or 4 of their own--and they're just reacting aggressively right now...hopefully this will all go away when the situation cools down.

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#10 rmiller4292

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 19:52

Hey all, I would like to add a L.E. pilot's perspective to this discussion....the police do not own the air over any scene..however (at least in Texas) if you are interfering with the duties of a police officer....and that can be articulated to a judge, charges can indeed be filed against the operator of an aircraft....I've been about 30 seconds from doing it myself on at least one occasion...not another helicopter, but a traffic reporter in a fixed wing, He was both violating the FAR's (minimum safe altitude) and borderline interfering with our duties. He was kindly asked by both myself and the controller to change how he was operating, and he eventually left the area....Secondly, there is the issue of police movements being broadcast live on TV. This is the issue that I believe was concerning to the officers in this scenario. If SWAT is about to surround a house, those SWAT officers would surely appreciate it if the bad guy wasn't able to see them surround HIS house on live TV...That is a HUGE officer safety concern, as this suspect had obviously intended to kill as many police officers as he could. I understand freedom of press etc....and feel that there is a need for live media feeds, but at times, I think that the media and the public at large, need to understand that sometimes there are more important things than getting the shot....If the proverbial SWAT guys above were ambushed based on images gained from a live video feed, I'm sure your ratings would go up, but who wants that on their watch.... fortunately, we have very small contingent of media assets that fly around me, but we pretty much work hand in hand with them...we are friends and have a mutual understanding about how each other work....If we have a good reason to censor a shot and can explain that to the media guys, they are usually more than happy to oblige, and likewise if we can give them a lead on a good story...we'll do that as well

I'm sure I'll get flamed by the ENG guys here, and my post was not meant to offend or lessen your role in any incident, just to illustrate that at least in Texas, there are protections in place to allow the Police (Aircraft or otherwise) to do their jobs and penalties for interfering in those duties....and this would apply to the banner tow aircraft or private pilot in his own aircraft hanging around a scene as well...

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#11 Goldy

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 01:09

however (at least in Texas) if you are interfering with the duties of a police officer....and that can be articulated to a judge, charges can indeed be filed against the operator of an aircraft


Ryan- same laws in CA. If I tell you to do something that does not endanger your safety, and you don't do it, you're interfering and you can go to jail. Again, all was well with the FAA side, if they asked the ENG ship to "back off" and the ENG ship went up 500 feet in altitude, most would see that as compliance with the lawful instruction. If they just sat their ground and didnt move when asked to, then the state could have a case against them.

Like you said, most of the times this is handled with some common courtesies and relationships that exist between pilots...as it should be. Never let the government come up with yet another way to regulate common sense. The radar tapes should tell a story.

Hope they fry the killer.

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#12 Lindsey

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 09:42

Suspect killed.

http://www.komonews....l/78211742.html

#13 Spike

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 15:12

It would take some very creative writing to articulate a Resisting, Delaying or Obstructing violation on another pilot who is only doing his job. Especially any pilot who has a lawful right to be where he is. Anyone who doubts this, should refer to the FARís.

Without a doubt, safety is paramount, but itís the working relationships within the local aviation community which dictate how these things turn out. Itís when the non-aviation folks get involved is when things start to quickly deteriorate.

Clearly, this situation was rapidly evolving. There canít be a better example of ďexigent circumstanceĒ. However, every city, town, county etc, has an Incident Command System which is responsible for these types of situations. Furthermore, the brass bars (HMFIC) that are in charge are (supposedly) extensively trained and have the ultimate responsibility. Just like us pilots, we donít (really) earn our pay flying around in helicopters enjoying the view. We earn our pay when things go bad. Unfortunately with this particular incident, apparently the IC failed to contact the FAA to establish a TFR. Why? Donít know. Why didnít the local airborne LE guys articulate this need to the IC? Donít know. Hopefully they did. In any case, the TFR is the one and only legal method of controlling airspace.

As far as the bad guys watching TV to see what SWATís doing outside, around these parts, SWAT cuts the power long before making entry. If in fact the circumstance is that exigent, the bad guy wonít have time to turn the plasma on. Heíll be too busy getting killed.


God speed to the fallen Officers and may that rat f*** shooter burn in hell.

#14 rmiller4292

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 17:44

Spike, It would take creative writing only if you were trying to bolster a weak case....Its not very hard to articulate how a truck driver was interfering with an officer's duties by driving through a crime scene to make his delivery....he's only doing his job too....its all a matter of circumstance...it sounds to me like emotions were high, and common courtesy went out the window...If I'm working a rescue and constantly have to pull off my scene to avoid conflict with a media aircraft....would they not be interfering with duties....even if they were just doing their job...I think that would not be too hard to articulate.

Ryan
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#15 delorean

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 18:37

rmiller.....

100% agreed, no flames here.

But, LEOs need to communicate that to the media guys, rather giving them just, "eFF off" command or attitude. I'm not saying that's what happened here, nor have I ever received that treatment. Everytime the local tactical unit helicopters have asked us nicely to back off and gave a reason which was safety related. Of course, we complied.

ENG is only PT for me, I fly EMS full time. There's been several times that I've been sitting on a scene and the news helicopters arrived. They're on the radio and have given me plenty of room to get out of the scene.

As you mentioned, the only guy we ever had problems with is a traffic reporter in a fixed wing. He used to fly 300-500 ft and constantly be giving highway traffic reports over the multiple stations he broadcasted on. Never on the air-to-air except to give his position, then he'd turn the radio down. That guy flew underneath me when I was on final with a level 1 trauma on board. He saw me break off my approach and radio'd to say, "didn't see you there! sorry!" I told him to tell that to my patient's family b/c he only has a few minutes before he bleeds out. No response. He got into it with the tactical unit one day too. His contract got cancelled and the skies are much safer now.

#16 rmiller4292

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 18:53

Delorean, Thanks for no flames..lol....I'm by no means trying to advocate that LE go after any ENG ship that doesn't do what they want....I was just pointing out that there are some legal means to keep them away from a certain area if it was necessary....We work real well with the other operators in our area, and have never had a conflict except with the aforementioned fixed wing traffic guy....ours is the same thing...he used to fly at 400-500 agl over downtown and do his thing...and he's done some darn near aerobatic (by definition) things over the city.....I followed him for a few one time because I thought he was having controllability issues and was about to go down....turns out he was just screwing around... In Austin, we have had a tenuous relationship with the media for a long time, and have recently taken several reporters and news directors up to see things from our point of view, and it has made great strides in being cooperative in how we operate...plus it has garnered some good press for our unit....and our department desperately needs all the good press it can get!!

Ryan
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#17 Spike

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 19:13

Spike, It would take creative writing only if you were trying to bolster a weak case....Its not very hard to articulate how a truck driver was interfering with an officer's duties by driving through a crime scene to make his delivery....he's only doing his job too....its all a matter of circumstance...it sounds to me like emotions were high, and common courtesy went out the window...If I'm working a rescue and constantly have to pull off my scene to avoid conflict with a media aircraft....would they not be interfering with duties....even if they were just doing their job...I think that would not be too hard to articulate.

Ryan


While Iím not expert, Iíd like to see the case law.

As far as how we operate, we understand we are not the FAA and do not enforce their rules. We may report a violation just as any Joe Citizen might but short of a flagrant life and limb situation we just consider ourselves experienced witnesses. The airspace belongs to everyone and Iím quite certain a competent aviation lawyer could put any LE agency to task for attempting to articulate otherwise. Again, common sense usually is all it takes for safe operations, but out in the airspace there are no ďyellow linesĒ and crime scenes are on the ground, not in the air.

#18 rmiller4292

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 19:29

Spike, I'm no expert either....And I'm not sure case law exists in this exact matter...however I don't believe that should prevent someone from pursuing what they believe is a valid charge. State law does not have a stated maximum applicable altitude....My disclaimer in this matter is that I'm not speaking directly to the facts of the Washington State case....I don't know the facts....Making case law is part of what we do in our line of work....We don't stop being police officers while we are flying.
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#19 Spike

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 17:03

I too will not speculate on the specifics of this incident. However, this kind of thing happens more often than not and itís only the professionalism of the aviators which keeps things civil, -most of the time. This is why as ALE operators; we need to understand where our jurisdiction lies and operate within those parameters. This way, we donít get bad case law like CA v. Criaolo and FL v. Riley. If some LE guy attempts to force an issue which is outside his realm of expertise (like aviation law), then the ALE community may suffer from an unfavorable ruling like those mentioned above. Plus, an aggressive hasty attempt to charge a pilot operating within the FARís could lead to civil rights violation (TITLE 42 USC SEC 1983).

Again, I'm no expert but working in both feilds, I'm fortunate enough to see both sides of the coin.

Edited by Spike, 02 December 2009 - 19:21.


#20 EC120AV8R

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 03:52

While I think charging the pilot or news director is complete BS, it is certainly "doable" under the state law if they feel they were truly obstructed. Confusing any FAR violation with the state's ability to file legitimate charges where they feel they are justified are totally different issues.

Interestingly, many states (Washington included) even have "Aeronautical" sections in their state code. Most just say any aircraft operated within that state must be operated in accordance with applicable FAR, so none of those would apply in this case either. If somehow the OIC at the scene felt that they were legitimately obstructed or interfered with, they can certainly write it up and send it to the DA and attempt to file it. Doesn't mean it will go anywhere, and it certainly wouldn't be in violation of anyone's civil rights to attempt to file a charge, nor would it create any bad case law.

If the elements of the crime have been fulfilled, it constitutes a violation of the section. In this case, the elemnts of obstructing, delaying or resisting read: (1) A person is guilty of obstructing a law enforcement officer if the person willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.

This is not a FAR issue, and has nothing to do with the operation of the aircraft per se. It is a state law issue, and the aircraft was only an instrument used in furtherance of the violation of state law (if in fact a violation of that stae law occurred).

The previously cited cases (The CA. v. Criaolo and the FL. v. Riley) have absolutely no bearing on this incident. Both of those were 4th Amendment issues brought up on appeal. Both involve law enforcement use of aerial observation of marijuana grows, wherein the defendants alleged the officers actions violated their protection from unlawful search and seizure. In Criaolo, the actions of the officers were upheld by the court, in Riley, they were not.

Hopefully the charges don't go anywhere in this case.




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