Camera In Car at DUI Checkpoint Records Cops Threats
By: Mary Ann Pekara
After getting a traffic ticket that he felt that he didn't deserve, 20 year-old Brett Darrow had an idea. The inventive St. Louis man installed a video camera in his car so that if he were stopped by police again he would have video evidence of his innocence. His camera is mounted to the side of the driver's headrest so that it records Darrow's speedometer.
When Darrow installed the camera in his car he never dreamed that his plan to insure fairness would eventually make him fear for his life.
Last November, Darrow was driving when he approached a DUI checkpoint. He stopped and was approached by an officer. When Darrow reportedly refused to discuss his personal driving habits with the officer, he was ordered out of his car even though he was not suspected of drunk driving. Another officer got into the car to move it and announced that he couldn't move the car because he didn't know how to drive a car with a manual transmission. So instead of moving the vehicle, the officer did a complete search of the car. Darrow says the search was conducted without any probable cause.
During the search of his vehicle, Darrow was detained and threatened with arrest. When he asked why he was being detained the officer reportedly told him, "If you don't stop running your mouth, we're going to find a reason to lock you up tonight."
The video camera in Darrow's car recorded the incident. When he informed the cop that his camera was on and recording, the threats stopped and he was released. After the whole ordeal, Darrow said he considered filing a lawsuit against St. Louis County Police.
Months later, Darrow says that when an officer approached him while he was sitting in his car, waiting for a friend in a 24-hour commuter parking lot on September 9th, 2007, he feared for his life. Again, his camera was rolling to record the incident that took place.
On Darrow's recording the officer can be heard questioning him and ordering him out if the car. The officer informed Darrow that he was considered suspicious because he was parked in the commuter lot. When Darrow refused to discuss his personal business with the officer, the cop began yelling and threatened him with arrest and went on to say he could invent charges against him.
The St. George, Missouri police officer, Sergeant James Kuehnlein, can be heard on the tape yelling at Darrow. "Try and talk back... to me again," yelled Sergeant Kuehnlein. "I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something. You want to come up with something? I come up with nine things."
Darrow said that he was afraid of the officer and thought that he might be assaulted by him. He wonders how many other people have had encounters in which the officer either threatened or followed through with his threats to make up criminal charges against them.
It turns out that Darrow had good reason to be afraid. In between the two incidents, word of him and his video camera apparently spread around the St. Louis police community. On a message board used by St. Louis area law enforcement officers, an apparent death threat against him was posted. The website has no official connection with the city of St. Louis.
On the "St. Louis CopTalk" website several references to Darrow were made, indicating that the officers intended to harass him. One post even revealed Darrow's home address, saying that he needed to be put in his place. Another post took it a bit further and read, "I hope this little POS punk bastard tries his little video stunt with me when I pull him over alone - and I WILL pull him over - because I will see 'his gun' and place a hunk of hot lead right where it belongs."
Sergeant Kuehnlein was put on administrative leave pending an investigation and was later fired for his threat to "come up with reasons" to put Darrow in jail. There is currently an ongoing investigation to determine if criminal charges should be filed against Kuehnlein.
Darrow says that police are now stalking his home. His camera is still mounted in his car, recording each incident as it happens.