Andrew Henderson, Whose Camera Was Seized as he Recorded Deputies, Sues Ramsey County

Andrew Henderson

It’s been more than five years since Andrew Henderson had his camera seized by a Ramsey County deputy after Henderson refused to identify himself or stop recording law enforcement’s conduct outside his Little Canada apartment.

He says he’s still reeling from it, though, and has now taken steps he says are aimed at ensuring no other Ramsey County resident has to endure what he did.

Henderson filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court this week alleging that the county’s handling of his case violated his first, fourth and 14th Amendment rights, according to the civil complaint.

While the suit seeks monetary damages for the stress and lost wages he suffered throughout his ordeal, Henderson said his actions are not financially motivated.

“I want to send a message that taking away a citizen’s camera when they are engaged in a First Amendment-protected activity is not OK and it will not be tolerated,” Henderson said.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office declined to comment on the suit because it is an open case, but denied Henderson’ claims, in an answer it filed with the court Wednesday afternoon.

A Ramsey County deputy took away Henderson’s camera when Henderson refused to identify himself and to stop taping on Oct. 30, 2012, incident outside his apartment in which an ambulance crew and police took away a drunken man.

The deputy told Henderson, “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.”

Henderson was charged with misdemeanor crimes of disorderly conduct and interfering with an ambulance crew.

He said he thought he would be exonerated by the video he shot. But when he got his camera back from police weeks after the incident, the recording was gone, Henderson said in his lawsuit, alleging the deputy unlawfully searched it and then deleted his recordings.

A six-person jury in 2014 found Henderson not guilty of the charges against him, after less than 90 minutes of deliberation at the end of a two-day trial that drew the attention of civil-liberties advocates. The Minneapolis-based Fredrikson & Byron law firm provided free legal representation to Henderson in association with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

During the trial, the prosecutor for Little Canada argued that Henderson broke the law by getting within three feet of a paramedic trying to do a medical assessment on the drunken man and then refusing to stop recording when the paramedic asked him to stop.

The paramedic had to ask a sheriff’s deputy to talk to Henderson, which delayed the ambulance crew in getting the drunken man to a hospital, the prosecutor said at the time.

Henderson argued otherwise, saying both at trial and in his lawsuit that he was 35 feet away “quietly” taping the incident from a bench when Ramsey County Deputy J. Muellner walked up to him and asked him what he was doing.

When Henderson told her he was recording, she “snatched the camera” out of Henderson’s hand and “confiscated it,” according to his civil complaint.

The disputing claims about this conduct would have been resolved immediately had the deputy not deleted his recording of the incident, his suit continued.

About six days later, Henderson got a mail citation charging him with misdemeanor-level disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process.

“As a result of Deputy Muellner’s actions and misconduct, (Henderson) was deprived of his physical (camera) and intellectual (video recordings) property and suffered emotional trauma, anguish, and distress, as well as lost wages and denied employment opportunities,” his suit says.

Henderson explained Wednesday that he struggled to find a new job after being laid off as a welder around the time, with the criminal case hanging over his head. Both he and his mother also endured stress and sleepless nights as the case dragged on, he said.

He has since found another job as a welder.

He estimated the amount of financial damages he is seeking to be around $75,000, but deferred to his attorney for more specifics.

His attorney, Zorislav Leyderman, said no amount has been decided on.

“Our position is we will take the case to trial and the jury should decide what damages he should be awarded,” Leyderman said.

Henderson underscored that the suit’s greater aim is about justice.

“I just want this not to happen to another person ever again in Ramsey County,” he said.

Since making a local name for himself when his case thrust him into the local spotlight back in 2012, Henderson has thrown his name into a handful of local elections.

He lost Tuesday night in his most recent attempt to nab a seat on the Little Canada City Council.