Turkish Journalist Bilgin Şaşmaz Sues Police Over Ferguson Arrest

click to enlarge St. Louis County police make an arrest August 19. - Danny Wicentowski
Danny Wicentowski
St. Louis County police make an arrest August 19.

It all started with the former cop who's now known as Officer "Go Fuck Yourself."

Journalist Bilgin Şaşmaz stayed close to then-St. Ann police lieutenant Ray Albers as Albers pointed his weapon at Ferguson protesters during protests on August 19 and said, "I will fucking kill you." Şaşmaz was doing his job, recording Albers' extreme actions and the rest of the protests -- which had been raging for more than a week -- for his employer, the Turkish Anadolu Agency.

But while Şaşmaz reported from the sidewalk, an unidentified St. Louis County police officer threw him down, shoved him into the pavement and arrested him, Şaşmaz alleges in a lawsuit filed with the ACLU of Missouri. The suit claims his camera, flash and lens were damaged, and his image files were confiscated.

The civil-rights lawsuit, filed on Monday, claims First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendment violations, false imprisonment and battery allegations against St. Louis County police and the officer who arrested Şaşmaz, identified in the lawsuit only as "John Doe."

"Mr. Şaşmaz should not have been treated like a criminal when he was only doing his job of reporting the unrest in Ferguson," said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. "Democracy suffers whenever the police hinder our news gatherers."

See also: Cops in Ferguson Detain Journalists, Threaten to Shoot Cameraman, Mace Reporter

Şaşmaz was arrested just after midnight on August 20 after repeatedly saying, "Press, press," to the officer arresting him to indicate he was a member of the media, the lawsuit says. He was detained overnight and released in the morning.

Şaşmaz, who is of Middle Eastern descent, was not closer to the protests than any of the other reporters and photographers, most of whom were white, when he was arrested, according to the lawsuit.

"The ACLU will do everything we can to preserve the freedom of the press, which has been hampered many times in Ferguson," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. "The public has a right to learn what is happening in their community and draw their own conclusions about the appropriateness of police conduct."

Albers, a.k.a. Officer "Go Fuck Yourself," later resigned from the force.

Here's the lawsuit:


Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].

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