Man Arrested for Mall Santa Shots

Photo by Chris Dorst/Charleston Gazette

It appears the Christmas spirit in Charleston, West Virginia, has been replaced by rabid paranoia. Scott Rensberger, a DC-based videographer, was arrested this week for battery on a police officer and resisting arrest after taking photos of the choir and Santa display at the Charleston Town Center shopping mall.

The Charleston Gazette reports that Rensberger says after he took some photos Tuesday evening, he was followed into a store by two men who told him he had taken photos of one of their children with Santa. Rensberger apologized and erased all of those photos, even showing the men his camera so they could see. The men apparently weren’t satisfied though, because they contacted mall security and the police.

After Charleston police Cpl. R.C. Basford opened with “Why are you taking pictures of kids?” things went downhill.

Rensberger said he reached in his pocket and pulled out his camera and raised it to take a picture of the police officer. Basford grabbed the camera to prevent him from taking a picture, which is when Rensberger said he took his free hand and brought it up to the small camera because he was afraid it was going to drop on the ground. According to Rensberger, Basford said, “Don’t you touch me.” Rensberger said he told the officer he wasn’t touching him.

So, of course, Basford then did the only natural thing – he forced Rensberger to the ground and arrested him. In a shopping mall in front of all holiday shoppers and children and festivities. Right? Because it’s not as if Basford could have reacted within the context of the situation. This was a 47-year-old man who apologized and complied with an earlier request to delete the offending photos. Who, if the officer had taken the time to investigate further, he would have found out is an award winning-photographer who takes photos of buildings for the IRS  and was clearly a hobbyist. Is this type of person really a threat? Whatever Rensberger’s actions were regarding the camera “scuffle,” is arrest the necessary and only outcome? Was the officer’s safety really threatened, or was he more angry that someone didn’t treat him with the proper deference?

Another weird thing about this story is that Cpl. Bansford was off-duty, moonlighting  for the mall’s security staff, yet he was wearing his Charleston police department uniform. So, if he’s not officially a city police officer, how can he charge Rensberger for battery on a police officer? It just doesn’t add up.

There seems to be this school of thought out there that, whenever someone is doing something perfectly legal and is approached aggressively by the police that they need to just shut up and accept it, be polite and endure it because police officers have hard jobs. I don’t agree. I don’t think you should be harassed and suspected for doing simple, legal activities.

The Charleston police department is looking into the matter and Rensberger is considering a lawsuit. Read the whole story here. It will make you mad.

And if you think this type of thing is ridiculous and has to stop, contact the Charleston Town Center: and Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster:

Article via The Charleston Gazette

6 Responses to “Man Arrested for Mall Santa Shots”

  1. 1 Rose Skegg December 11, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    The paranoia in this world is disturbing. I understand not wanting your photograph taken by a stranger but involving the police is going to an unnecessary extreme. I think the population needs to be informed of the laws about photography in public so these incidents can be cut down. The police abusing their authority is even worse. This man was utterly polite to delete the images and then it goes even further south. Stupid.

  2. 4 horsense December 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I just e-mailed this gentleman and offered my support. In order to find an e-dress I used that popular search engine.

    He has a web blog, and here is a copy/paste from a third party:

    [Scott Rensberger
    is one of the most awarded journalists in the business. He’s the only person ever to win both the highest award for investigative reporting (IRE) and also be named the best news photographer in the United States (NPPA Photographer of the Year). During the past two decades, Rensberger has crossed the globe working as a one-man-band. He’s worked extensively throughout Europe and has brought home stories from Central America to Asia and almost all points in between.]

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