Update 11:30 a.m. Thursday: Video allegedly depicting YouTuber Nasty Nathaniel’s encounter with Morro Bay Police Chief Greg Allen and Officer Greg Gruitch was posted online Wednesday night.
Original Story: A “citizen journalist” who publicly videos police officers across the Central Coast to advocate for First Amendment rights is alleging he was mistreated by the Morro Bay police chief after filming the station lobby.
The video taken by “Nasty Nathaniel” allegedly capturing the incident was not online early Wednesday afternoon, but a YouTube video by a user who identifies himself as “Johnny 5-0” claims that Nasty Nathaniel was arrested and “violently thrown to the ground” by Police Chief Greg Allen and another officer.
In his video, Johnny 5-0 does not go into detail about what led to the incident other than to say Nasty Nathaniel was filming the Morro Bay police station lobby with a Canon camera and a GoPro device when he was taken to the ground, arrested and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle for about an hour.
Johnny 5-0 claims Morro Bay police released Nasty Nathaniel after calling the District Attorney’s Office for guidance on the law.
“Nathaniel’s been in cuffs many times, and he said this was excruciating,” Johnny 5-0 states. “We need people to call and let Morro Bay know about public photography. ’Cuz apparently the DA let them know (it wasn’t a crime) and these guys are out of control.”
Allen did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but the city released a statement about the incident alleging that Allen detained a man — who the city did not identify — because he thought the man might pose a threat.
Here’s the city’s version of events:
At approximately 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, as Chief Allen was attempting to enter the police parking lot, he saw a man dressed “in all-black military style clothing with tucked-in military boots” standing at the entrance of the parking lot gate and filming with a hand-held camera.
Allen asked the man who he was and what he was doing, and the man replied that he was videoing police vehicles entering and exiting the parking lot. Allen went inside the police station to retrieve another officer and learned the same person had entered the front police lobby, where he continued filming.
“Chief Allen had an immediate concern for the safety of police employees based on his personal knowledge of past attacks of police stations,” the city news release states.
Confronted outside the police station, the man allegedly refused to provide identification or explain what he was doing and was “detained for the purpose of ensuring he was not a threat to the safety of police employees or the community, and to verify his actions were not terrorist-related.”
Police soon learned the man’s identity as a “photojournalist and First Amendment auditor,” and he was released without further incident. The city says the entire incident took 45 to 60 minutes.
The Tribune has not been able to reach Nasty Nathaniel for comment, but someone who identified himself as Kirk Gibbs, who said he is a friend of Nasty Nathaniel, said attempts to post videos of the incident repeatedly resulted in the video being removed, presumably by YouTube.
Gibbs said Nasty Nathaniel is an advocate of First Amendment rights who has had similar incidents with other police departments. An online search reveals videos on YouTube and the website copblock.org of Nasty Nathaniel allegedly being detained by Santa Maria and Pismo Beach police officers.