Three people in a larger group who were videotaping Arlington police making a traffic stop late Saturday were arrested on suspicion of interfering with the officers’ work.
Two are active with the group Open Carry Tarrant County, which advocates for people to carry firearms openly. All three are reportedly active with Texas Cop Watch and the Tarrant County Peaceful Streets project, a group that records police officers as they go about their duties.
Kory Watkins, Open Carry Tarrant County coordinator; and his wife, Janie Lucero, each face charges of interference with public duties and obstructing a highway. Joseph Tye faces charges of interference with public duties and refusing to identify, police said Monday.
They were released from the Arlington Jail early Sunday after posting bail, according to police.
The three were in a parking lot near Cooper Street and Linda Vista Avenue in a group of about 20 people who were taking videos of an officer who had pulled over a motorist in a traffic stop, said Sgt. Jeffrey Houston, an Arlington police spokesman.
On two other occasions Saturday, other people had filmed police officers but only the three who were arrested got in an officer’s way, Houston said.
Houston declined to describe how the three interfered with officers, saying that is part of an ongoing investigation.
Police confiscated the recording devices of those arrested but will return the devices later, Houston said. Officers also confiscated a black-powder revolver and a knife from Watkins, which police also expect to return, Houston said.
Texas courts have consistently ruled that it is legal to film police during their public duties. Houston said that Arlington officers are recorded all the time and that the practice does not bother them. The police have sent letters to members of the police videotaping groups telling them how to take video safely without getting in officers’ way, he said.
Other media outlets reported that Watkins got upset after a police patrol car inched toward his wife, but Houston said the vehicle did not touch anyone.
“They were on the sidewalk while an officer turned in with his lights going and while he momentarily sounded the siren,” Houston said. “Watkins did get upset, but no one was ever in any danger.”
Watkins, Lucero and Tye could not be reached for comment.
Watkins and Open Carry Tarrant County sued Arlington in May, alleging that the city’s sidewalk ordinance violates the group’s First Amendment rights of free speech. Members of the group say they were unfairly prevented from handing out literature and pocket-size copies of the U.S. Constitution during demonstrations along some busy streets.
In July, a judge granted Open Carry a temporary restraining order blocking the Arlington ordinance.