Man Points Smartphone Camera at Cop, Gets Arrested for Brandishing “Weapon”

The San Diego Police Department is in hot water with photographers and First Amendment rights advocates everywhere this week over the way two of their officers handled a situation this last Saturday.

The story and the video that goes with it — which went viral after being shared by the website Photography is Not a Crime — shows one of the officers violently arresting a man for exercising his right to record the officer during the course of his duties.

Adam Pringle and two of his friends were walking down a Mission Beach boardwalk when two bicycle officers stopped to write Pringle a citation for smoking. Everything was ok until Pringle got out his Samsung Galaxy and began recording the officer.


After telling Pringle to put away his phone several times, to which Pringle replied several times that he had a right to record, officer M. Reinhold slapped the phone out of Pringle’s hand, slammed him onto the ground, and proceeded to arrest him. Pringle was bleeding so badly afterwards that an ambulance had to be called.

The officer’s only justification for his actions was when he told Pringle that “Phones can be converted into weapons … look it up online.” Cell phone guns, which were originally the subject of an email/video that began circulating in the early 2000’s, are in fact real.

However, it has been almost a decade since the devices were in the public eye, and even then a customs spokesperson is quoted on Snopes as saying that “there’s no indication that these are being mass produced.” It’s fairly obvious the officer was using the infamous cell phone gun as an excuse to stop Pringle from recording him.

Pringle and Photography is Not a Crime have both reached out to the internet for support in this matter, sharing the story/video and asking people to send San Diego Mayor Bob Filner emails voicing their opinions. So far, at least one major organization has come to Pringle’s support.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), has sent the mayor the following e-mail:

Dear Mayor,
As the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) I have been in contact with you police department in an ongoing attempt to help improve police relations and avoid the type of incident that occurred yesterday. See:
I spoke at the annual meeting of the IACP held in your city last September regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public to photograph and record. Apparently more is needed. As I have done training with other police departments around the country I renew my offer to help yours.
Please feel free to contact me.
Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Very truly yours,

Mickey H. Osterreicher
General Counsel
National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)

Pringle wound up spending the night in jail and is set to appear in court on May 23rd to answer to charges of obstruction. For more details or to send your own e-mail to Mayor Filner, head over to Photography is Not a Crime by clicking here.

  • guest.

    The way this cop reacted was indeed wrong. Yes, people like him don’t deserve to wear a badge. However, that aside, I have been brought up to respect authority. And although it is your right exercise any rights that you have, I still think this “child” acted like a complete and total “cock face”. If you are receiving a summons because you were smoking where you shouldn’t have been, #1 you deserve a ticket and #2 stop smoking it’s bad for your health.

  • BlahDare

    With that logic, a hamburger can also be converted to hide a weapon in it. A baby stroller. A lollipop. A pair of eyeglasses. You had me up until then.

    “Hurry up, OPEN the bun off that burger!! Show me it’s a real patty! NOW!! FACE DOWN!! ”

    You have done very little to convince me that not all cops are bad. You have done much to convince me that some cops are just a LITTLE LESS bad.

  • Matt

    The word you are looking for is either authoritarian or corrupt. Fascism is way, way different.

  • BlahDare

    There are no better manners than standing up for your civil liberties and that of others. You expect civilians to have great “manners” yet you excuse those of the police officer. You should be ashamed to call yourself an American.

  • BlahDare

    because that would be good “manners” :)

  • BlahDare

    It doesn’t matter how clear the source video is, if you upload to youtube directly from your cell or didn’t choose the correct tick marks when u uploaded from your pc it will use very low quality settings.

  • Jeff

    A similar event happened in Arkansas and was filed in Federal Court.

  • BlahDare

    “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

  • morroja

    Ooh, I want that cell phone gun.

  • Rob

    True as well.

  • Lonnie

    Even if he should have put it down out of politeness, it doesn’t excuse the cop’s response.. Would I be embarrassed if this were my kid? possibly.. but I would be more concerned and enraged at the cop’s reaction to it than anything else… The impolite action of my kid would be an afterthought..

    You don’t destroy someone’s property, man-handle them and then throw them in jail for being impolite.. that’s an absurd point to make.

  • Lonnie

    It’s digital… it being smashed on the ground doesn’t degrade the quality .. he probably had a smudged / scratched lens.. if smashing it damaged the memory then the video would be glitched up, not blurry.

  • Lonnie

    Blaming the kid for legally recording the officer is just downright absurd. He was asked politely, sure.. but the Kid did NOT have to comply because it’s within his legal rights to record him in public.

    The bottom line is the Cop responded inappropriately most likely out of anger and not in accordance with any actual law… The Cop is in the wrong here.

  • Naq Vaun

    Call the San Diego Police Department, tell them to fire Reinhold

    (619) 531-2777 — Chief of Police

    (619) 531-2000 — General Complaints

    (619) 531-2801 — Internal Affairs

  • Lonnie

    That is ridiculous .. wow… the Kid wasn’t breaking any laws whatsoever.. ultimately his property was destroyed, he was beaten and spent the night in jail because the Cop didn’t like the fact the boy didn’t listen to his made up rules? .. It’s no wonder we’re losing our freedoms when people like you would rather just give up your rights to comply with an unjustified demand.

  • Lonnie

    Acting impolite isn’t illegal .. so it’s absolutely irrelevant.. Destroying someone’s property, beating them and jailing them without real justification however, is .. I suspect the cop smashed the phone hoping he’d destroy the evidence.. makes me wonder what else he might have gotten away with in the past.

    That’s a complete abuse of power.

  • Lonnie

    Cop or not, I don’t agree with you.. yes you can ASK them to put the phone down but they have no obligation whatsoever to comply with you.. The cop was entirely in the wrong on everything after that point.. sure, he can ask.. but then that’s all he can do.. period..

    I would personally record any interaction with law enforcement simply to make sure facts are facts and everything is straight in the event something does happen.. Not all cops are nice guys… there are crooked cops, there are cops who feel above the citizens and act that way.. recording it is more of an insurance policy to make sure it’s not “him against me” .. it’s just simply fact of the matter..

    The kid did not deserve any of what happened.. even if he wasn’t polite

  • Lonnie

    That is entirely irrelevant.. yes it might annoy the officer but that is his problem, not the kid’s! .. The cop has to put up with that because it’s entirely LEGAL .. He signed on to the job to serve the public.. not to invent laws and arrest someone for making him mad..

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Oh believe me, a lawsuit is coming. This video is the kind of thing that gets personal injury attorneys wet between the legs… The fact that he got the video online and the cops didn’t erase it means the lawyers are going to be falling all over themselves to represent this victim in what will surely be a quick settlement from the city.

  • Lonnie

    While anything can be made into an improvised weapon, I totally disagree with you .. The cop and his partner were being recorded the whole time and they didn’t have any issues with it until the kid decided to not obey a request… which he was well in his rights to do.

    Had the cops TRULY thought that cell phone was a weapon they wouldn’t have just let him keep on recording for so long.. The case you’re showing is a stun gun.. he has a right to carry that as well.. nothing justifies the cop’s reaction.. no matter how annoying or impolite the kid was… The cop was there with a partner, both have guns.. it’s not reasonable to assume a cell is a threat to your life and therefore destroy the phone, beat the kid and throw him in Jail… nothing he did was “Obstruction” .. the ticket was already written.

  • Nathan Mccreery

    The big story here isn’t the phone. It is, why is someone being cited for smoking outdoors in public?

  • grumpa

    Stupid arrogant idiots who want to threaten and argue with an aresting officer deserve whatever they get. This idiot and his friend were constantly threatening and disrespecting the officer. The officer only asked him to let him check the phone and he would give it back which is what eventually happened, and the camera was allowed to keep running. What has happened to make it accepted to argue and not obey a police officer? If this punk had been respectful and decent to the officer, he would have ended up with a ticket for smoking. Pretty stupid choices he made.

  • Ken Jones

    Didn’t say or imply that a hamburger can be converted to a weapon. The mention of the hamburger and the converting something into a weapon was separated by a whole paragraph. Nice try at obfuscation though.

  • worlduno

    So what is this a__hole , ignorant and god wannabe cop going to say when he gets filmed by the media with their big cameras?.. That he was afraid it was a rocket launcher…this is the lamest excuse to give….I hope they sue his ass so he learns his lesson.

  • Cellar door1213

    I think it’s hilarious when people assume all cops are terrible people and only look out for themselves solely because of their job profession. Some of these men do risk part of their lives to keep a city safe, so just remember that being a cop doesn’t make you a douche, it’s the people on the Internet.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Yea this guy is acting like a dick. I dont condone what the police did, but now I understand it.

  • Ken Jones

    I don’t understand. You open your comment with you saying you don’t agree with me, but continue to pretty much paraphrase much of what I said.

    I lot of folks won’t agree with me if I said the grass is green and the sky is blue simply because I’m a cop. That’s close mindedness. I get it all the time.

  • CreativeKurt

    What is the purpose of filming the police while they are writing you a ticket? Was Mr. Pringles worried for his own safety? Did he think he was in the process of capturing world breaking news? or was he just looking to be a “dick” and try to incite an incident with the police?? Let the police do their job. Don’t get in the way. Don’t be disrespectful. In my opinion Mr. Pringles got what he deserved. Next time he should keep his phone in his pocket, his mouth shut, and let the police do their job without getting in the way. I am not a cop or am I affiliated with law enforcement.. I just believe in common courtesy and respect, which Mr. Pringles showed none of.

  • John Franey

    Lets see, can I tape a razor to a hamburger?…umm. Yep,

  • Jackson Cheese

    And cops wonder why so many have so little respect for them.

    This is a profession that attracts thugs & authoritarians who get high on power and adrenalin.

  • Mantis

    We need a smartphone app that records directly to a cloud.

    This way even if the phone is confiscated, destroyed, or the video is deleted it will still have been saved and available for public viewing.

  • t892n

    Yes, that’s correct, in America.

    What the heck are you talking about? How did you make this about something worldwide? This is an American story about an American police officer and an American citizen…….in AMERICA.

    What are you babbling about?

  • Guest

    Wait till the kid gets the bill for the Ambulance, which someone called. So you are not allowed to smoke outdoors, on a boardwalk ?

  • R E Casper

    *Void where prohibited. Some restrictions may apply.

  • Ronald

    If you don’t show respect, does that mean you deserve a beat down and some jail time?

  • Paul Salafia

    A prime example of how cops interpret and enforce the law, simply by making things up, ALL COPS DO THIS!

  • support abortion

    what a douche (the kid)

  • Jon Wilson

    Oh, shut up. I’m wary of police as much as the next guy, but being willing to sincerely engage them about why they do the things they do is helpful for both sides. KAN I TAPE A RAZUR TO A HAMBURGLAR is about the dumbest thing you could say at this point. Congratulations.

    Was the bit about taping a razorblade to the smartphone a bad example? Yeah. But there are actually documented cases of “smartphone guns.” I don’t know that anyone has ever been assaulted with a sharp hamburger.

  • cunguez

    I don’t see how he’s paraphrasing any part of you said. At what point do you state, directly or indirectly, that Pringle had no obligation to comply with the officer’s order to put the phone down? Despite saying that you encourage and educate others on the use of recording devices in the context of public interactions such as these, your comments seem to imply that, whether illegal or simply unwise, Pringle was making a mistake by not putting the phone away ( or not handing it over to prove it was not a dangerous object) when the Reinhold told him to do so.

    Please correct me if I am wrong in this assumption, but I arrive at it based on two things: one, that you say you routinely ask citizens whom you are detaining to put away anything that might be taking attention away from the interaction being had during their detention, whether it’s a phone or a hamburger or some other non-threatening inanimate object, and two: the only mistake you mention Reinhold making was not accepting that Pringle was recording the incident.

    What Lonnie says explicitly, and what you do not say ( explicitly or implicitly), is that Pringle was not legally obligated to put the phone down when Reinhold ordered him to do so. I know you say in incidences such as this, everyone should, “start [ your phone or other recording device] up and stick it in your pocket,” but there is a major distinction between what you are suggesting and the right that a citizen has to openly record, both audibly and visually, a situation such as this one in which they are being detained.

    Lonnie also ends his comment saying that, polite or not, Pringle did not deserve the treatment he received. I do not hear you echoing that sentiment. Again, please correct me if I’m wrong; I’m simply pointing out why I do not agree that he is paraphrasing any part of your comment.

    As to your last remark regarding the ratio of police officers on the force who are bullies versus the ratio of photographers in the world that belong to the paparazzi – while I respect that you do not wish or deserve to be stereotyped or labeled because you wear the uniform – and while anyone ignorant enough to say that all cops are anything other than cops are too stupid to be doing statistics – yours is also a false analogy. Not only do the numbers not bear out for that statement to be true, but while paparazzo can be obnoxious, invasive, even freightening and dangerous at times, having grown up in L.A.’s Rampart Division in the 90’s, it wasn’t photographers that made me and my friends and family nervous.

    Not every cop in that division was corrupt or abusive of their authority, but there were enough to ruin the reputation of the L.A.P.D. and enough that ruined the lives of a lot of innocent people. Princess Di’s death was tragic and the paparazzi shouldn’t have carte blanche to stick their cameras wherever they please, but I think most would agree that more energy and resouces should be used to curb police brutality than to limit the rights of people and the use of photography in the public sphere.

  • MustBeSaid

    That horrible example of a zip gun built into a fake phone shell from 1988 is a complete joke. The cop knew he was full of crap. But he also knew that his corrupt cop friends, corrupt internal affairs officers and corrupt city government would back his worthless, tiny penis actions.

  • Ex-commiefornia resident.

    You got to remember that this was in Commiefornia. Everything they think is bad for you, and they can fine you for, is illegal there. I was born there, but you couldn’t get me back to that crap hole state even if it mean’t winning the lottery.

  • Guest

    That not every cop in this world is an asshole.

    Even in America itself, not every cop is an asshole.

    America citizens that overusing their own rights just to show they’re higher than cops are assholes.

    The world are laughing at America right now… Because they prefer not to be serve and protect.

    God Bless America then.

  • Guest

    The video is deleted though.

  • Ken Jones

    You are correct. My apologies. My original post had been much longer and I re-wrote it to be more concise and left out the part where Pringle was not obligated to stop recording. I was replying with what I thought I had posted versus what had actually got posted. I also missed where Ronnie said “period” about everything Reinhold did was wrong. That’s certainly not a paraphrase of what I said.

    That’s what I got for “speed posting,” I guess.

    Anyway, no, Reinhold does not have the right to tell someone to not record the incident. Pringle certainly has the right to have the event recorded. I think we agree on this, no?

    The sticking point: Does Reinhold actually tell Pringle to not have the event recorded? Does Reinhold tell Pringle to stop recording? Or is the words Reinhold uses is “Put that away”? I’ve listened to the video several times and I’m not hearing it. He telling Pringle to put it away. If you can provide a time in the video I’d be happy to go back and listen. Yes, it’s a nuance.

    Let’s back up a minute. Just before Reinhold tells Pringle to put away the cell phone, Reinhold turns the ticket book around presumably to explain to Pringle the citation and to have him sign it. Call me out again if you wish but I do think in California you have to sign the ticket as a promise to show up for court. Right? You are, or were, a resident of CA, is it true you must sign the ticket as a promise to show up for court or you are arrested and taken before the judge immediately?

    Here’s where I think the incident took a left turn. Pringle has his phone in his right hand, possibly his strong (writing) side. Reinhold is about to explain the ticket and have him sign it. Reinhold wants Pringle’s full attention so the ticket can be signed, issued, and carry on with business. Reinhold asks Pringle to put the phone away. Pringle refuses and says, “No, thank you. I’m in a public place. I have the right to film [garbled, I think he says “me” “. This is where Reinhold says “No, actually…”

    This were lines cross. At this very point both sides are correct from their point of view. Pringle does have the right to have the event recorded. However, he is being detained. Reinhold can control the scene. This does include limited suspension of certain rights. For instance, Pringle is not free to leave. Agreed? We have to the right to move about free of unreasonable search and seizure. Right? A stop is a seizure. The place, manner, length of time, etc. play into whether it was reasonable. Police can order you to move to another place for various reasons if the move is reasonable. Police can order you to do, or not do, certain other things as long as the order is reasonable for that time, place, and manner of stop.

    Pringle on the other hand is recording the scene. He thinks he has the right to do so. He would, EXCEPT he is holding the phone during a stop. By holding the phone in his hand he is interfering with Reinhold’s task of having Pringle sign the ticket.

    So, we having Reinhold telling Pringle to put away the phone. Pringle saying he will not stop recording. Reinhold is concerned the phone is weapon. (Which a 15 second Google will prove such things are readily available.) Pringle says there is no way a cellphone can be a weapon. He also says he can record the event. We still on the same page?

    Okay, the sticking point is: does Pringle have the absolute right to actively record the scene while holding the phone in his hand in such a way as it interferes with the street stop while being detained? Can Reinhold legally tell Pringle to not be holding the phone as he is conducting the stop? Pretty much the same question asked differently.

    This is certainly not a case where the police arrest a bystander for recording an event. Not nearly so obvious a violation of rights.

    This is also an example of peopling THINKING they know their rights and really don’t. Carlos Miller started off with a reasonable movement against police abuse, but it has turned into an all out assault on police at every turn including provoking police action. Mr. Miller has an agenda and I’m not so sure it’s really about photographer’s right more than a personal vendetta. Mr. Miller is pushing a “right” to a point that may or may not exist.

    A lot of folks THINK they know their rights. I recently had a case concerning a person who claims to be a Moor. (Look it up.) He claimed that he didn’t have to obey traffic laws, he was immune. He claimed the judge didn’t have jurisdiction over him. The judge says differently and he gets to contemplate his “rights” while he is in jail. Yes, this is a real movement little different than Sovereign Citizens.

  • guest.

    Well if you get your jollies off acting impolite… You actually suck.

  • Jason Wright

    There is a difference between having good manners because you HAVE good manners and not doing something because you are scared of the results of that action.
    Many people do disgusting things all the time, but if they have the right to do them you don’t throw them to the floor beat them and arrest them.
    The LAW and police are not there to enforce manners.

    As nice as it would be if everybody had better manners in public it really has nothing to do with this case.

    Legal rights trump manners, no matter what they are in every case.
    Being a jerk is not a crime, if it was can you imagine how many people would be left on the streets not in jail? Nobody.
    Everybody manages to do something stupid at least once in their day, they should not get arrested for it! (unless it IS illegal).

    (Just noticed the smiley at the end of BlahDare’s comment, he was probably making a joke so I shouldn’t have over-reacted thinking he supported the “manners” comment, but heck, ill leave this rant up as the point still stands…

  • Ronaldo

    Yes indeed.

  • Guest

    You can provoke the cop just because you pay the tax.

    Cool. Just like corruption.

  • Guest

    Unfortunately, Mr. Pringles expect to be pringled. His fault then.

  • Swomper

    On November 26, 2012, the question of the legality of video taping police officers and government officials was put in front of the United States Supreme Court. The ruling was that is perfectly legal to record Police Officers and any other Government Officials. The ruling is as follows:

    “Audio and audiovisual recording are communication technologies,and as such, they enable speech. Criminalizing all nonconsensual audio recording necessarily limits the information that might later be published or broadcast—whether to the general public or to a single family member or friend—and thus burdens First Amendment rights. If as the State’s Attorney would have it,the eavesdropping statute does not implicate the First Amendment at all, the State could effectively control or suppress speech by the simple expedient of restricting an early step in the speech process rather than the end result. We have no trouble rejecting that premise. Audio recording is entitled to First Amendment protection. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’”