By Karen Brainard
James Charles “JC” Playford, a freelance photojournalist and videographer from Ramona, was arrested by San Diego Sheriff’s deputies for delaying and obstructing law enforcement at the scene of the May 25 fatal accident, according to a sheriff’s detective.
Playford’s account of the incident differs from law enforcement. He also tells of previous run-ins he has had with deputies when attempting to film or take photos of crime or accident scenes.
Four people were killed in the May 25 three-vehicle crash at state Route 67 just north of Rockhouse Road and three were taken to the hospital. A large section of the highway was closed to traffic and emergency vehicles blocked the scene.
Detective Thomas Seiver of the sheriff’s Ramona substation said authorities were conducting the accident investigation when Playford arrived. Seiver said Playford was ordered to stand and wait with other media representatives but Playford said they would have to arrest him first.
“He basically challenged the deputies to arrest him and they did,” said Seiver.
According to Playford, two San Diego County sheriff’s deputies approached him and said his press credentials were suspended and he could not film the scene.
The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) issues press credentials to media personnel, which Playford contends is not required by law. He said he holds a press pass with American News and Information Services Inc. and showed that to the deputies. Playford said deputies took his press pass and told him to leave or he would be arrested.
The freelance photojournalist said he started to walk off the road and was then arrested by deputies. His camera, video, and U.S. passport were taken, he said. Playford was handcuffed and led into a police car. He was transported to the Vista jail and released on his own recognizance, said Seiver. His court date is July 6, according to the detective.
His passport was returned the next day, Playford said, and he was informed on June 5 that the sheriff’s department was releasing his video camera and memory card.
This is not the first time he has been arrested for such charges by sheriff’s deputies. On May 16 he was in Vista court for obstruction stemming from a Dec. 1, 2011, incident outside Congressman Darrell Issa’s Vista office during reports of a bomb threat that turned out to be false.
Playford, 48, was found guilty by a jury on May 18 but was sentenced by Judge Richard Mills to one day already served, and his probation for a prior offense was terminated. In addition, he was ordered to pay $300 in attorney and court fees. He plans to appeal the decision.
Playford said he is not the only cameraman “being attacked” by police and sheriff’s deputies and has had numerous cameras seized.
“We are tired of being victimized. It is time that our rights matter in San Diego,” he said, adding that he has filed formal complaints with elected representatives.