A King County Sheriff's deputy seized a photographer's pictures in a public bus tunnel over the weekend, citing terrorism concerns.
Alex Williams was taking pictures in downtown Seattle over the weekend when he ducked into the tunnel to escape the rain.
The vast, open space, the unique design and the lights and movement of the metro bus tunnel in Pioneer Square attracted his eye.
Williams specializes in nature photography and he was trying to expand his portfolio.
"I was approached by a King County Sheriff's Deputy who said, 'Oh no, no, no, no, no. This is no good. We're going to have to confiscate all this stuff.' And he motioned to all my gear," Williams said.
The deputy explained that the tunnel is a potential terror target and that photographers must have permission to be there.
When Williams offered to delete his digital photos, the deputy said he was confiscating the flash cards - to search them for security breaches.
There are no signs there saying photos aren't allowed.
The deputy was wrong.
King County Sheriff's Spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart told KOMO 4 News, "We're going to do some additional training with our deputies who work the bus tunnel, let them know that yes, it is okay to photograph inside the tunnel. I think he just went overboard a little bit. He shouldn't have done that. It isn't against the law."
Only after his gear was confiscated, did Williams find out he hadn't broken the law.
He's filing a formal complaint with the Sheriff and consulting the American Civil Liberties Union.
"It's alarming if an officer can approach you and take your stuff or force you to leave when it's not really against the law," he says.
All he really wants is an apology and his compact flash cards back.
The Sheriff says he'll get both.
That doesn't mean the tunnel is a free-for-all for photographers.
Because of security concerns, deputies will still question people taking pictures in the tunnel.
And metro transit wants commercial photographers to get permission first.
That's for liability reasons.
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