Police investigating if Springfield man’s rights violated while filming officers at death investigation

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 11:28 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Police say they are investigating an incident in late November where a Springfield man claims his rights were violated while filming police working a death investigation.

Terry Rucker recorded the incident with two Springfield Police Department officers at the scene of a home. Rucker admits to regularly recording the police in the line of duty, in an effort to hold them accountable. He calls himself a “cop watcher” and First Amendment auditor. He says this incident is just one of three this year where he says he was beat up by Springfield Police.

In the incident report, Officer Harold Millirons says he began to tell Rucker, out of respect for the family, he wanted him to move away. He says Rucker walked up to him and placed his cell phone up to his face, and because of his past history, he wasn’t going to allow him that close. He says Rucker was known for hating police and for violent, unpredictable behavior. Millirons wrote he and the other officer grabbed Rucker by the arms and he started to go to his knees, so they put him on the ground and handcuffed him. He was not arrested or injured.

Rucker says the officers violated his right to stand on a public easement, as they tried to make him leave, and his right to record in public.

“Having grown up in an environment where the police have been a regular part of my life for a very long time, I felt that it was necessary to stay on top of understanding what it is that I can and can’t do,” Rucker says.

Rucker says when he tilted his phone for a better view, Officer Harold Millirons went too far.

“It was less than 5 seconds from the officer walking up to me, in my face and grabbing my phone, that I was on the ground,” said Rucker. “It seemed premeditated. I believe the officer, when he got out of the car knew he was already going to try to arrest me.”

“Nobody likes a cell phone held up to the middle of their face. I’ve had that done on multiple occasions. If it’s a few feet back, I’m okay with it, but if it’s within one or two feet from my face, you know, I’m getting rid of that cell phone,” says Chris Welsh, 1st Vice President for the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. “It’s just a gray area, right in there, how close can somebody hold up an item to your face to where you feel threatened.”

Welsh says recent attacks on Springfield police officers make them even more cautious. He’s well aware of those who call themselves cop watchers, but says they’re only watching for the bad.

“For every negative thing a police officer does, there’s thousands of good deeds. We got into this job to help people, not to hurt people,” Welsh says. “I just feel they need to be transparent. If they have a situation where they videotape a cop doing something good or a public servant out there helping somebody, why aren’t they putting that on?”

He points out, Rucker’s video only shows one view of the incident. For instance, the incident report claims Rucker started to go to his knees before officers put him on the ground.

“That’s why we are for body cameras, to bring out all the facts,” Welsh says.

“I’m definitely looking for bad cops. I’m also looking for good cops. But when a good cop stands by and lets a bad cop do something, that turns the good cop into a bad cop,” says Rucker.

Rucker says he’s looking into legal action, and wants Chief Paul Williams to appropriately deal with the situation, after he says two of his other complaints were just dismissed.

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