Ark. Lawmaker Arrested for Filming Police; Charges Later Dropped

State Rep. John Walker was arrested Sept. 26 while filming a police officer putting a black man in handcuffs during a traffic stop.

Arkansas State Rep. John Walker is arrested by Little Rock police Sept. 26, 2016.
Arkansas State Rep. John Walker is arrested by Little Rock police Sept. 26, 2016. YouTube screenshot

UPDATE: Oct 5, 2016 8:32 p.m. The Root has learned that no charges will be filed against Omavi Kushukuru (Omavi Shukur).

An Arkansas state representative who helped pass legislation that protects the right of citizens to photograph and record the police was himself arrested after he filmed during a traffic stop.

According to the Arkansas Times, John Walker, 79, a civil rights attorney and Democratic state representative from Little Rock, Ark., was arrested along with his colleague, civil rights attorney Omavi Kushukuru (known as Omavi Shukur), 29, on Sept. 26 after they stopped to film the actions of Little Rock police who were in the process of arresting a fellow black man and walking him to a patrol car.

According to a police report filed by Officer Jasmine Reynolds and posted by the Arkansas Times (pdf), police stopped a car that did not have license plates. The driver of the vehicle, Cedric Bell, 27, also did not have a valid license, and a records check showed that he had outstanding warrants. Police handcuffed Bell, and Officer Reynolds was walking him to a patrol car when Bell noticed Walker filming the interaction. Bell reportedly asked Reynolds what Walker was doing.  

“I’m just making sure they don’t kill you,” Walker reportedly said.

Officers said they attempted to speak with Walker, but he kept talking over them “in an antagonistic and provocative manner,” Reynolds claimed in the report. Officers eventually moved away from Walker and went back to the traffic stop, where the passenger in the vehicle, Gary Gregory, 24, was found to have a failure-to-appear warrant. As police began the arrest of Gregory, Walker and Kushukuru reportedly approached the vehicles involved in the traffic stop.

Officers said they warned the two men repeatedly not to come any closer to the traffic stop but were reportedly ignored by both. Kushukuru was arrested when he stepped in between the patrol vehicle and the vehicle driven by Bell. Walker was arrested after allegedly being warned several times to leave. Officer Reynolds said she told Walker to leave or be arrested, to which he responded, “Arrest me.” At that point, Reynolds said, she did.

Walker and Kushukuru were charged with obstructing governmental operations. Walker is reported to have been overheard saying, “I only want to file a complaint against the white officers” while in custody at the Little Rock jail.

On Sept. 27, the Arkansas Times reports, the Little Rock Police Department announced that it would be reviewing the arrests of Walker and Kushukuru. The department concluded that Walker should not have been arrested. Little Rock Chief of Police Kenton Buckner issued a letter of apology to Walker, which Walker rejected in his own letter to police, the Arkansas Times reports.

The charges against Kushukuru still stand.

On Sept. 28 the Little Rock Police Department released dashcam footage of the arrests, according to the Arkansas Times, which shared excerpts of the video on its website. The video shows officers approaching Walker as he is filming the traffic stop and becoming upset after Walker refers to police use of deadly force.

In 2015, Walker helped pass legislation that gives citizens the right to record or photograph in public or private spaces where they are lawfully present, according to the Arkansas Times.