NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)-- Three years ago, a few officers ordered a photojournalist to hand over his phone after he started recording officers responding to an incident The criminal charges against him were dropped and now he's suing.
Arrested while leaving a film festival in the area of Crown and College streets in New Haven, Luis Luna and his lawyers hope to use that incident in September 2010 as an example.
"You can not arrest people for simply filming the police," said Diane Polan, Luna's attorney.
Luna says that's what happened to him. "I was maybe 30 feet away and I took my camera out and I started to film," he said.
Luna says he was videotaping officers involved in a fight with three people. He says when asked what he was doing he said "filming." He says his phone was taken away, and next thing he knew he was in handcuffs.
"Sometimes people who are filming the police actually do interfere," Polan said. "That's a different situation."
Polan has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against former Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, arresting officer Kristin Fitzgerald, and others including the City of New Haven.
Polan says Melendez ordered Fitzgerald to arrest Luna. "Then directed another police officer, Curtis Miller, to delete the video on Mr. Luna's iPhone," she said.
The criminal charges of interfering with an officer were later dismissed.
"Unfortunately this behavior hasn't ended," Polan said. "The police are still arresting people unlawfully who are filming the police."
Polan is also Jennifer Gondola's attorney. She was arrested for similar activities in June 2012. Her case was also dismissed.
"That lawsuit will probably be coming down the pike soon," said Polan.
News 8 reached out to the City of New Haven's Corporate Counsel for a comment. They said the city will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly at the appropriate time.
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