Ex-Missourian photographer arrested for obstructing police

Thursday, January 13, 2005

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane said Wednesday he hadn't decided whether to file criminal charges against Don Shrubshell, a Columbia Daily Tribune photographer, for obstructing police officers during a shooting investigation.

Shrubshell was a Southeast Missourian news photographer from 1992 to 1998 before taking the job with the Tribune.

Crane late Wednesday morning still had not seen a police complaint stemming from the arrest Tuesday.

Officers arrested Shrubshell, 49, on suspicion of obstructing a government operation for being on the wrong side of crime scene tape. The taped-off area was in the Park De Ville neighborhood, where a police officer investigating the shooting of another officer became a gunshot victim before the gunman turned the gun on himself.

Columbia police Capt. Sam Hargadine said the officer would not have made the arrest unless the photographer was getting in the way or hindering police.

"It's not open for discussion. You should stay behind the tape, period," Hargadine said. "It's unfortunate for both sides. You guys are doing your job, and we're doing ours."

Shrubshell said he followed the officer's orders and did not cross the tape on Worley Street. He did walk around to another area that was not taped off. At that point, Shrubshell said, he and other reporters, including television photographers, walked to the edge of another newly taped-off section. That section was the actual crime scene, Shrubshell said, and was in another area of the neighborhood beyond the original crime tape. The police were allowing the media to take pictures from that inner perimeter.

Restricted area

Shrubshell said he took some photos and began walking back toward his vehicle in a direction that put him on the restricted side of the original tape but well outside the crime scene. That's when an officer arrested him.

"He must think I crossed it and was walking back. I don't think he knew I was down there with all the other media," Shrubshell said. "He may have been emotional, given the officers' shooting, which is understandable."

Jean Maneke, an attorney who represents the Missouri Press Association, said there's a balancing act between media and police. The media have a constitutional right to cover breaking news events.

"On the same token, law enforcement has a right to protect the crime scene and do what they need to do," Maneke said.

"Shrubshell was doing his job. He was leaving the scene, so obstruction seems unlikely. He won't be disciplined," Tribune managing editor Jim Robertson said.

Shrubshell was free on a $500 bond, which the newspaper paid.

Earlier this month a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer was arrested while shooting pictures at an accident scene. Police alleged photographer Gabriel B. Tait was in the way of emergency workers.

Staff writer Scott Moyers contributed to this report.

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