Reno Newspaper Photographer Cleared of Charges After Covering Fire

Photographer Tim Dunn, shortly after his arrest.

Prosecutors in Reno, Nevada, have dropped charges against a newspaper photographer arrested and injured while trying to cover a house fire last year.

Tim Dunn, photo director at the Reno Gazette-Journal was taking photos and video at a four-alarm fire on June 18. 2012, when Washoe Count Sheriff’s deputies told him to clear out. Dunn says the deputies then shoved him to ground and pushed his face into the gravel. He later showed facial injuries he said were caused by the rough treatment.

Dunn says officers further accused him of impersonating a firefighter by wearing protective clothing, a common-sense precaution when covering a four-alarm fire.

Sheriff’s officials disputed Dunn’s account, saying deputies never touched the photographer’s head or face nor accused him of impersonating a firefighter. They maintain that Dunn jeopardized his safety by continuing to approach the burning building, despite instructions to back off.

reno911Dunn was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest, but the Washoe County District Attorney dropped the charges on Tuesday, based on Dunn’s co-operation with a stay-out-of-trouble order.

“Of course he wasn’t going to get into trouble — he never has in his life,” said Dunn’s attorney, Tom Viloria. “It’s a case that the police should never have cited. What occurred was the result of poor training on the part of the deputies.”

Dunn has filed an excessive force complaint with the Sheriff’s Office, which won’t say if any of the officers involved have been disciplined.

Harry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, told the Gazette-Journal he was glad to have a resolution to an incident that never should have been prosecuted. “He was out there doing his job, and the whole thing could have been resolved in about 10 seconds.”

(via Reno Gazette-Journal)

Image credits: Header photograph by Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, promo shot of Reno 911 by Viacom

  • jamie johansen

    Why is there a picture from RENO 911! used as the image in this article? It gave me a good laugh for a heavy story.

  • RP

    This photographer was in an area he shouldn’t have been in and it’s sad
    he was injured, but he’s clearly in the wrong. Imagine you’re a wedding
    photographer taking pictures at a wedding and someone keeps getting in
    the way of you taking a picture of the first kiss . . .the first dance
    .. . the best man’s toast….now imagine lives could be at stake.

    Law enforcement officers were attempting to clear the area out to ensure that not only civilians were safe, but firefighters were actually able to perform their job and prevent the fire from spreading.

    A 4 alarm blaze is nothing to scoff at — I can’t honestly understand
    PetaPixel outright insulting the Reno first responders by putting up a
    Reno 911 promotional picture. Disgusting. PetaPixel should remove that picture immediately.

  • Michael Zhang

    Haha. David just wanted to throw in something random :)

  • RBM

    RP, unless you’re one of the Firefighters, or one of the cops involved… have no idea what went on, who was where, and who did what.


    What’s disgusting is when a cop or firefighter involved in the incident comes on to a photo website and pretends not to be a cop or firefighter, but rather an “outraged” photographer.

    The picture of the Reno911 ninny’s seems ENTIRELY appropriate in this case…..and perhaps you even see yourself in one of those characters?

  • KC

    So RP, you were there? You saw what happened? Or are you just the kind of unthinking, apologist dupe that rogue cops count on to back them up no matter what?

  • RP

    RBM, although I’m not a cop/firefighter, I’ll leave the denials aside, as I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me anyway. And KC is right, I wasn’t there, so I have no clue what happened.

    Based on the few facts in the article, there are 3 possibilities:
    1. The photographer was at a safe distance and law enforcement officers went out of their way to shove him to the ground.
    2. The photographer was too close to the fire and ignored law enforcement officers direction to leave the area. They knocked him to the ground intentionally, injuring his face.
    3. The photographer was too close to the fire and ignored law enforcement officers direction to leave the area. They tried to remove him and during this time he was accidentally injured.

    If it’s 1 or 2, I’d hope Mr. Dunn files a civil suit and is justly compensated and the officers are disciplined. My issue is with the article — it’s biased and assumes the officers were in the wrong.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Oh yeah because the police never beat anyone up for no reason and the police are always honest on their reports 100% of the time

  • Rabi Abonour

    I knew someone at the RGJ at the time this happened. From everything he’s told me about Dunn, I can’t believe that he a) would have gotten in the responders’ way and b) would have made up a story about being treated with undue force. This is a seasoned newspaper photographer; it was by no means his first fire cover.

    Regardless of what happened, I doubt Dunn would file suit and risk jeopardizing his paper’s relationship with the fire and police departments.

  • jamie johansen

    Haha! That’s awesome.

  • hmck

    Cops frequently go out of the way to make life difficut for news photogs. When I was a volunteer for the fire department and taking pictures I used to get hassled by the cops.

  • Richard Ford

    Don’t ask if someone was actually there when they make comments like the above – while around here. The loonies will jump on you and suggest that your question about a poster has to be disagreement with what they are posting. Check out the lady in red post to see. :-S

  • Jas

    Yep, I’ve seen that show with those Reno Cops…

  • Just Me

    Why not talk about what lenses he should of been carrying to get the shot from a safe distance? That is unless he wanted the worms eye view with a wide angle lens shot.