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Storm Chaser Arrested

| 11:10 pm May 7, 2008 | Comments (59)

Storm Chaser Brian Barnes was arrested while leading a storm chasing tour in Crane, Texas Monday night.

Here is his story, taken from WX-CHASE…

Dear All –

It finally happened, a storm chaser was arrested on May 06 for “storm chasing” and unfortunately it happened to me (while I was conducting a tour) and I spent the night in the Crane, TX lockup.

I’m not going to post all the fine details here and I’m going to ask you to please reserve your opinions until after the details come out (likely after I go back to court) – but here is the basics:

We were parked in a rest stop area south of Crane, TX with a developing wall cloud just to our due south and I was shooting video. The storm had already produced one brief tornado while it was about 15 miles west of Crane and I called that into the San Angelo WFO and they relayed the message to MAF and the storm was tornado warned.

I then drove east into town and then south until we found the rest area along the highway, we pulled into the rest area and pulled all the way over to the left side near some picnic tables with the intention of leaving plenty of space to allow other cars to pass through the rest area and to keep our tour customers safe from the traffic.

A cop didn’t like us being there and told us to leave. He was upset, nervous and very erratic. But the basic is that I wouldn’t leave and he decided to take me to jail – he said at the time (and on video) that it was
“for my safety”. I was on public property and I was legally parked and
doing nothing to break the law.

After we “core punched” the storm in the police truck (golf ball to tennis ball hail) and arrived in the flooded town of Crane, I was taken to a holding cell and it took the deputy 5 hours to “manufacture” a charge. He came up with this – “obstruction of a highway and/or passageway”.

Just so you know (and there is a LOT of photo and video evidence) I was not obstructing anything, in fact, I was a little perturbed before the arrest happened because cars were driving in front of my camera in the rest area –
so there was plenty of room. I also explained the storm situation to a
fire fighter from a nearby town and he was appreciative.

The local newspaper reporter was behind me and taking pictures and witnessed the entire thing and it was recorded “cleanly” on my video camera,
pictures/videos from my tour customers, etc… The newspaper guy was so
upset about it that he almost went to jail with me and the former sheriff of Crane County is my bondsman and he said the charges were “BS” and he’s a great guy.

Likewise, the people in Crane Texas are some of the nicest people that I have ever met. All that I met today (there were a lot, probably 85% of the
town) were very supportive and they all seemed extremely upset at their county law enforcement office.

So we are fighting this and it might get a bit ugly for me, but I at least hope that I have all the support from my fellow chasing friends and I truly hope that you’ll all support the storm chaser on this one.

I have released a small fraction of the video to the local media, but under the advise of my attorney, I am not going to youtube this until he gives me to okay…he hasn’t reviewed it yet, he’s in north Texas and I’m still down along I-20 tonight.

But, I’m sure when you see the video you’ll agree completely that I was
doing nothing illegal. Under the law (as it was recently explained to me)
a police officer can tell me to move, but he can’t arrest me if I decide to stay (which is why the charges were manufactured they way they were), and this will be considered a “wrongful arrest”.

I’m tired tonight so I’m hitting the sack. I refused all the food they
gave me and I didn’t even lay down on that “thing” that they had for inmates to sleep on because it was full of things like dried semen and God only
knows what else – so I slept standing up in the corner. I’ve got a
top-notch suite tonight at a 4-star, so I’m in the Jacuzzi in 10 minutes and then off to la-la land for awhile.

I’m going to work on putting something on ST in the next few days as well, along with some video from the local news stories happening in the Midland/Odessa areas.

Thanks to all.
Brian Barnes
Violent Skies Tours

BTW – the Crane County jail was “third world” at best, and it’s as close to being in a Mexican jail that I ever want to get!

Comments

Category: Pre-November 2010 Posts

Comments (59)

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  1. Tarmo says:

    I am shocked to see, that some consider real chasers as crazy thrill-seekers who break any possible law. Those nutcases are the yahoos.

    If anyone is willing to read more about the REAL storm chasers, you are better off reading Stormtrack – http://www.stormtrack.org/library/faq/

    Storm chasers have their own ethics and… they are not as bad as some anti-chaser folks want to show them to be.

  2. Brian K. says:

    No, I wasn’t “indirectly begging for someone to respond to my comment”! And maybe you’re the one who needs to get a life, not me!

    Either that, or you need to GET INFORMED about the spread of police brutality in this country!

  3. woody says:

    WOW!

    1st of all While hard definitions may exist, in reality there are all kinds of hybrid groups out there “mobile spotters” trackers, chasers, spotters. (sometimes spotters chase and sometimes chasers spot)

    Hurling epitaphs at one another is of little value.

    2nd, a house divided cannot stand. If you classify yourself as a spotter, If you classify yourself as a chaser, realize the public, the police and many others cannot always discern the difference. We are all in this very large boat, and perhaps that’s the irritant, but unfortunately it’s true.

    3rd, what’s the law? in some cases the law gives most police officers statutory authority to disband a gathering (even an otherwise peaceful and lawful gathering) for any purpose other than freedom of expression. Especially on by public roadways, parks, etc. Under the auspices of things a simple as being disruptive, a hazard, or noisy. In some cases it’s even as simple a statement, (paraphrasing) “if directed by an officer to leave (an area), and the subject refuses to do so, the officer may use any reasonable force necessary (up to and including arrest) to produce compliance with the directive”

    (and if you think that’s interesting google police continuum)

    While we can question the authority of an officer’s application/judgment in this case (or the actions of the chaser in question)I think we should stop these destructive retorts and posturing. Instead let’s be positive and try to concentrate on constructive discourse that doesn’t involve personalities.

  4. Dennis says:

    I have a few viewpoints on this issue as it has been ongoing for several days.
    First, let me say and admit, I am a retired law enforcement officer with over 25 years experience.
    Second, I am now a full time Spotter, Chaser, Hunter, Severe Weather Reporter, Videographer, Photographer, or most any other nice term often applied to this “job.”
    Not a single one of us knows every single one of the facts of this case.
    People are making assumptions, quoting – misquoting laws, decrying authority, calling law enforcement and certain weather people names and even have stooped to the level of calling each other on this blog, names based solely on a video of very short duration only showing part of an encounter and on a story written by some news media and the arrested person himself.

    Was the Deputy Right or Wrong?
    I, nor any of you, fully know, as we don’t have all of the facts.

    Was the arrested person Right or Wrong?
    Same answer as above.

    Let the courts and the legal system make that determination.

    Now, there are bad police in various capacities in various locations all over the world. But, people here have made remarks making every Law Enforcement Officer out to be vile, crooked, bullying, egotistical morons. How many officers do any of you know that have actually and factually commited any illegal or improper acts?
    Some will say you hear about it all the time. Add all the number you hear about that are bad. Subtract a reasonable 25% that are just judgemental accusations. You only have 75% of that original number that may be bad. Now be reasonable and realize that that there over well over 45,000 Law Enforcement Officers in the U.S. alone. This makes a very small percentage that may reasonably and justifiably considered to be rogue.

    Next take the total number of Trained Spotters, Chasers, or other terminologies used. You bet, there are some misfits, unfits, and some untrained people out there. Does that make all of us bad and nut cases and does that mean we have a death wish? I don’t think so. Again, general comments are made about a select few and everyone is suppose to believe it is all of us. Some people think I am a little loose in the head for going after a potentially deadly storm so that I can warn the general public of impending danger. And yes, I do take pictures and make videos and make my living from it. I also broadcast live to over 20 stations nationwide every day that I am out on the ongoing severe weather. This enables you and anyone else to know if that particular warning is real. Public Safety comes first. Pictures and Videos are often not made because the public’s safety and welfare is of the foremost importance.

    I believe everyone should be held accountable for his or her own actions. Everyone is human and prone to make mistakes, but who is anyone here to make a logical judgement on what should happen to either the Deputy or the arrested person based on what we factually know?
    To those that claim they pay the Officer’s salary. I will say that a study was conducted a few years ago of this claim of people saying they pay the Officer’s salary. Everyone in the U.S. that works and pays taxes contributes only 25 cents per year for a police officer’s total salary and benefits per year. Guess what, if you work 40 years, you paid a grand total of about $10.00 for a Police Officer for your entire life time. All I can say, is we sure don’t have much room to talk about what an Officer says or does that does not directly affect us based on our contribution to the Officer’s salary.
    I would dare say that most of us probably hope that what we do in life is worth more than a petty little $10.00 for our entire life.
    Does anyone want their 25 cents back for this year to leave an Officer alone? But anytime you need or call an Officer, remember you are only paying him 25 cents per year. What do you really expect for 25 cents a year? I seem to see and hear an awful lot from people who are only paying 25 cents a year for someone to work.
    For people here to stoop to the level of calling each other names and then to call and categorize Police and Chasers as all bad is just plain ridiculous.
    This makes as much sense as someone saying because dozens of college students got arrested for drugs that all college students are drug addicts and dealers.
    Might as well also say that since 75% of all crimes are committed by people under the age of 30 that they are all crooks and theives.
    Just go ahead and put them in jail so 75% of the crimes will not get committed. Then when they turn 30, let them out of jail.
    People really need to get all of the facts correct before they make their off- the-wall comments and suggestions on what happens. Also, remember your total contribution and opinion is only worth 25 cents a year where it concerns a police officer.
    Finally, if the Deputy was wrong, then the appropriate disciplinary actions should be taken.
    If the Chaser, spotter, tour operator is wrong, then he should pay the appropriate price for his actions.
    I am not taking anyone’s side, as there is no totally reasonable and factual information to be had to make this type logical decision.
    Lastly, for those who complain on what the Spotter, Chasers, Hunters, weather people, etc do, why do you even come in here to argue if you don’t like this subject? This is a weather blog after all.

  5. Russ says:

    If he was indeed performing a pure public service, I have a problem with the arrest. It sounds, however, that he may have had a van full of customers paying to get close to a tornado (chasing for profits). If he potentially was putting others at risk, the officer may have had legitimate concern that the chaser was using unsound judgement for the sake of profits and putting his passengers at risk. Just a thought…..

  6. Christine says:

    I am a Lead Chaser in Amarillo, Tx I have done both radar and field. I agree with you and some of the others that have left comments about law enforcement giving chasers, people who put their life’s at risk to save the life’s of the ones they protect. We risk lots everyday and make sacrifices that are not only hard on us but can be hard on the ones we love. Storm Chasing is not a paid profession, no one pays these guys to do this they just do it.

  7. Leesi says:

    Woody, Dennis, Christine, Ryan: Amen to your comments!!!
    However, in my opinion, stories like these are SOOO HYPE!!! There are many sides to a story, and until ALL the facts have been gathered, we MUST NOT jump to conclusions. We don’t even know the whole story, and besides, we weren’t even there when this happened! And if anyone who left a comment was, then you can tell your side of the story, but be honest, and try not to leave biased comments. Plus, whether you are a spotter, chaser, or severe weather reporter, YOU know the difference(s) between what each job is, and if you want to get out there and save lives, then that’s what matters most. However, you should also realize that innocent, ignorant, or otherwise untrained people may NOT know these differences. In many cases, if you inform them, and they try to argue by making illogical assumptions, then chances are, it’s not even worth your “two cents.” They’ll have to learn that lesson on their own.

  8. Ladybirdnomore says:

    I live in Crane, and I’ll tell you right now, the officer was in the wrong 100%. Most of the officers we hire are guys that big-headed jerks that think they know everything. It’s embarrassing to know that this is what our government is becoming.

  9. john says:

    iam from crane,tx and yes the police here think there in the movies they have nothing to do but bother people people who arent doing nothing if you ride at night just to go to the store they will pull you over like were doing somthing they nothing better to do and he is lucky that it wasnt crane pd they are worse then the sherrifs they ride with there lights off and pass stop sighs they break the law all the time they harrass everyone here old people and young people dont ever come to crane,tx you will be profiled they didnt have a segagation wall for nothing if you know what i mean

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