• Tourist photographing trains in N.O. ARRESTED

  • Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.
Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.

Moderators: nomis, keeper1616

  by pineywoodsman
Happened just a few weeks ago. Fortunately he was able to get out of jail days before Katrina laid waste to the city.
The following is from Steve Barry:

"This was sent to me, and the sender has given me permission to use the story in the next issue of R&R. Here's a sneak peek at something that is really alarming."

August 23, 2005

My biggest fear, in recounting what happened to me August 19, 2005 in New Orleans, is that people will have a very difficult time believing me. I am sure some folks will be sure I am embellishing the facts, exaggerating, or outright lying. None of this is the case. Everything I state here happened as I say it.

I am a 60-year-old, recently retired pharmaceutical rep, with three grown sons. I have a particular fondness for trains, and riding on Amtrak. Friday morning, August 19, I departed Houston on the Sunset Limited, bound for Pensacola, Florida for a short vacation. The train had a layover of
several hours in New Orleans, so I thought I would kill some time taking photographs of the terminal and Amtrak facilities. I had taken a lot of photographs along the way, and I have started a photographic album intended to document the Sunset Limited all the way across Louisiana. There is no way to know how much longer Amtrak will run this train.

It is important to know that there are no signs on the platform forbidding passengers from walking down the platform into the area beyond where the lead engine would be, and no signs that prohibit passengers from taking photographs. There are "No Trespassing" signs on the gate
to the Amtrak maintenance facility, on Earhart, but they are not visible on the platform. Two female Amtrak employees drove by and asked me what I was doing. I said I was taking photographs, and that rail photography was a hobby of mine. They admonished me to "watch out for the Amtrak police." I did not take that warning seriously, because I was not doing anything wrong. I joked that maybe "they would beat me up, so I could file a multi-million dollar lawsuit." That, being an idea so ridiculous, anyone would know it was meant in a humorous vein. I walked a little further down where I encountered a young guy, who was also an Amtrak employee. He inquired as to why I was photographing the switcher, and I explained to him that I was just a railfan, and I wanted
photos of the Amtrak equipment. I asked if I could walk further down the platform to take a couple more photographs. He said he preferred I wait until he could get someone to accompany me down there. I said "fine", and I waited. By then the two female employees had returned and we were all standing around talking and waiting for whoever was supposed
to come to see about my request. After a while an Amtrak policeman arrived. I figured he would say I could, or I could not go further down the platform. When he got out of his car, I could see he was already in a highly excited and agitated state. He was not in the mood to dialogue. He
explained I was trespassing on private property (remember, no signs), and was not supposed to be taking photos. I was not about to argue with him, or be the least bit confrontational, knowing the reputation of New Orleans police, but this was an AMTRAK policeman, and I was an
AMTRAK passenger. I merely inquired if this was not public property, since Amtrak is a publicly supported entity. At that he told me to turn around, and he handcuffed me.

I naturally protested that I had done nothing wrong. But he was determined to handle things the way he had, I believe, decided to handle them before he ever showed up. He took me up to his office, and contacted someone, who I assume was his superior. He gave the person an embellished, and almost completely false account of what happened. For instance, he stated I had said, "This is public property, and I can be
here if I want to be." I begged the policeman not to take me off the train, but he continued to repeat that I was "going to jail." I really got upset at this point and insisted he let me talk to someone in the Amtrak office.
After asking him over and over to let me speak with someone, he finally put an agent on the phone. I told agent at the terminal I had done nothing wrong, and to please come get me out of this mess. The agent said he could not override the policeman, and generally conveyed the attitude that he did not give a damn what my predicament was. The policeman ran my ID, and, of course, it came back that I had never been
arrested, and that I had no criminal record. He was unfazed by that information, and instructed the agent to remove my bag from the sleeper room I had occupied. In the stress of the moment I forgot about my large hanging bag that was in the lower level rack. It made it to Orlando, and I will get it back this week.

As we were driving out of the terminal area, on the way to the Orleans Parish Prison, he pointed out the "No Trespassing" sign on the chain link gate, which is not visible to any passenger on the platform of the terminal.
Upon arrival at the jail, I was processed in, and at that point the Amtrak officer committed a gross violation of procedure, by keeping my wallet, camera, and a pocket knife that the jailer had taken out of my pocket. This was to have major ramifications, later, when I finally had the opportunity to bail myself out of the facility. He had also erased certain photographs in my digital camera, while up in his office, a violation of my civil liberties. While waiting for him to show up I had photographed two A-10's that were flying over. He wanted to know why I had photographed the A-10's. I responded, "Because I'm a plot." I do hold a private pilot's license, but my response seemed to stun him slightly, and he moved on.

The Orleans Parish Prison is one of the worst jails in the country. The jailers there treat all inmates with contempt, disdain, and do everything they can to make you feel there is no light at the end of tunnel. My charge, incidentally, was criminal trespass. You cannot bond out until you are "processed." For hours I watched other inmates come and go,
while my name was never called. Earlier, in an odd difference in procedure, the watch captain said, "O.K. Bourgeois, go to that window." I thought I had it made, but when I got there, the first thing they wanted was a photo I.D. Too bad, it was in my bag at the Amtrak police office.
So, I had to be put through a nationwide fingerprint search,which added more time to my stay. I went in the jail at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, slept (what little I could) on the concrete jail floor, instead of the viewliner bed I had on the Sunset Limited, and at four o'clock Saturday afternoon I
was still in jail. I could have been out at 11 a.m. of the same day, but with no money, or debit card (remember, they were taken from me) I could not bond out. So, along with about 60 other inmates, I was put in the orange suit and moved to the big prison, with the big cell block, just like you see in the movies.

By the grace of God I had done one thing right. I had
managed to get a phone book and write down the number of my cousin, who lives in New Orleans. All phone calls out had to be collect, and you had to have the number. I can remember exactly two phone numbers in my head, one being my brother who lives in Lake Charles. I was finally able to get in touch with my sister-in-law, and she made numerous
phone calls for me; most importantly to my friends in Pensacola, who by now, were frantic. Not to mention my youngest son, who lives here in Houston, who was sent into a tailspin. My cousin, who had been gone when I first called, was home now, and around 6 p.m., she came down and paid my bond. In the manner of doing things at the Orleans Parish
Prison, I walked out of the jail at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning. I recovered my belongings the next day at the terminal.

My vacation I had looked forward to was destroyed. My friends and family had been traumatized, as only you can be when you cannot account for the whereabouts of someone. The lasting psychological effect of this is hard to predict. I have been quite depressed since I came home. The over whelming fact is, I COMITTED NO CRIME. You cannot arrest someone for trespassing, when there is not even a sign
saying "no trespassing," and you cannot arrest someone for taking photographs. The entire amount of time that the officer spent with me on the platform could not have been over one minute. What motivated him to arrest me, when he could have easily said, "You cannot be here-go back to the train," I cannot say. What really bothers me is he obviously felt he could get away with this gross example of false arrest, and deprivation of civil liberties. That points to something rotten in the system, itself. Combine that with the total disregard of my welfare by the Amtrak agent, and there is ample room for an investigation, and action to be taken. The officer should be terminated, for sure, and following him out the door should be the agent. The officer's superior who allowed him to perpetrate this outrage, should also have to answer.

There is no stone I will leave unturned to get justice for this. As I sat in jail my most consistent thought, after "I have to get out of here," was "I have to make this count for something." This should never happen to anyone, again.

James Craig Bourgeois

Back to me (SB):

I'm not sure what to say. I plan to follow up with Amtrak on
this one, as we need to make sure someone is accountable for
what's going on.

Steve Barry
Managing Editor
Railfan & Railroad Magazine

  by dinky
This is totally disgusting. I hope someone, some day, takes these violations to constitutional protections and civil liberties and sues one of these....excuse my French....MFers...and wins millions upon millions. Then maybe they would learn.

  by prr60
This particular story has been circulating on various rail discussion boards for the last few weeks. It is always posted by someone on behalf of someone (Steve Barry) who has heard the story from someone else. That is, in legal circles, called “hearsay” and is in almost all cases inadmissible as testimony because hearsay is so inaccurate. Now it appears again with the added touch that the individual was released from jail just before the hurricane. How fortunate. Otherwise, the story is word for word what was posted elsewhere.

Here is my take. I do not believe this story: not one word of it. It has been repeated so many times in so many forums, and always by someone on behalf of someone on behalf of someone, that I strongly suspect it is a hoax. There is a saying that something too good to be true is probably not true. In this case I feel that something that sounds unbelievable sounds that way for a good reason. Until this story is confirmed first hand by the actual victim, or is run in print by a real news organization (why would no one publish this story to date), I will remain unconvinced that this is anything more than someone simply stirring the pot to see the reaction.

  by AmtrakFan
I have always believe this story was a lie. Something isn't right about it.

  by John_Perkowski
There's an easy way to resolve this, IF Mr Steve Barry is listening out there. He's the managing editor of Railfan and Railroad? Surprise! Carstens Publications has a website. It's a no-brainer for him to either verify or repudiate this.

John Perkowski

  by Otto Vondrak
Something doesn't ring right to me at all. It sounds like it *could* happen, with all the outrageous things we've been hearing about regarding photography. I don't think we should pass judgement until we see this story appear in Railfan & Railroad, or get a confirmation from Steve Barry, himself.


  by Sam Damon
FWIW, I did a quick Googlesearch to see if the man existed. That part seemed to check out.

Since I'm not in a position to plug further stories on the subject, that's where I quit digging. Add to that the confusion that currently exists in NO, and it's going to be a while before this is verified and straightened out.

It would be a whole lot easier on everyone if Steve Barry would send a message out on what he's found to somewhere, given the level of interest displayed on this BB and elsewhere. I don't expect a full article; that's why he's in business, publishing. A summary, along the lines of "Yes, this is for real" or "No, I checked and some things didn't mesh" is, I think entirely appropriate.

  by Gilbert B Norman
I think that one will find there are two sides to every story and that only one here has been heard. It would appear to me that someone "mouthed off'; the defendant's apparent joke was not taken as such by the Amtrak employees. As far as they were concerned he was ordered to move on by them, when he refused they did the natural thing and summon law enforcement.

There are references to the defendant saying such as "I'm doing nothing wrong'. While a court of law may subsequently disagree, on the street the police officer is the law, and as cops have often noted 'You may beat the rap, but not the ride'.

  by MikeF
This story has already been posted and discussed here in this thread.

  by EastCleveland
Not long ago, while traveling on the Southwest Chief, I stepped onto the platform at Albuquerque, and then wandered toward the head of the train to snap a quick photo of the engines being refueled. Several Amtrak employees politely waved me off, saying that passengers weren't permitted in that area.

How did I cope with this outrageous assault on my personal liberty?

I shrugged. I said, "Okay." And I left.

If the Tale of Woe recounted by Mr. 60-Year-Old Recently Retired Pharmaceutical Rep is even half true, the gentleman is an imbecile.

Only a moron ignores warnings by railroad employees, and then challenges a cop who's clearly not in the best mood to begin with.

And only an ABSOLUTE moron is so insistent about his God-given right to take snapshots of -- let's face it, kids -- a piece of grimy machinery (one indistinguishable from dozens of identical pieces of grimy machinery Amtrak owns) that he literally gets thrown into jail.

If any of it actually happened, I hope the cell floor was comfortable.

  by njtmnrrbuff
Totally harsh! No wonder why Amtrak has that photo contest as well as someone with a camera on the 05-06 travel planner. It is just like someone getting away with murder and the guy who is innocent or makes a small mistake gets locked up. In California I took plenty of pictures at places like LA Union Station, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. More fun, I got to Santa Barbara and San Diego by train from LA. Many cops but no one harrased me.

  by MEC407
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul S. Highland" <[email protected]>
To: "TrainOrders List" <[email protected]>; "Railspot List" <[email protected]>; "Southeast Rails" <[email protected]>; "Rail South" <[email protected]>; "Amtrak Fans" <[email protected]>; "Amtrak and Transit" <[email protected]>
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2005 13:34
Subject: [Amtrak] Fwd: Update on man arrested for trespassing at Amtrak in New Orleans; 19 Aug

> Reposted from the Trains Newswire @ <http://www.trains.com>:
> Amtrak arrests Sunset Limited passenger for trespassing
> NEW ORLEANS -- Amtrak's no trespassing policy came into sharp focus last month when a passenger on
> the eastbound Sunset Limited got off the train in New Orleans Saturday, August 19 and walked up the
> platform to where a locomotive was idling. He wanted to take a photograph of it. Stopped by an
> Amtrak police officer, he was arrested, booked and spent the night in a city jail. The train
> departed without him.
> The passenger, James Bourgeois, a 60-year-old retired pharmaceutical salesman from Houston, Texas,
> en route to Pensacola, Fla., says he didn't do anything to cause his arrest. An Amtrak spokesman
> said the arresting Amtrak police officer said Bourgeois was belligerent and refused to leave.
> Bourgeois denies it.
> Bourgeois says that while walking up the platform, two female Amtrak employees drove by and asked
> him what he was doing and admonished him to "watch out for the Amtrak police."
> "I did not take that warning seriously because I was not doing anything wrong," Bourgeois later
> recounted. "I joked that maybe 'they would beat me up, so I could file a multi-million dollar
> lawsuit.' "
> Bourgeois says he walked a little farther up the platform to take a few photos when he encountered
> another Amtrak employee who asked why he was there. Asking if he could walk farther down the
> platform, he says the employee asked him to wait where he was until someone could accompany him.
> While waiting, Bourgeois says the two female Amtrak employees he spoke with previously had returned
> and the three were chatting when an Amtrak police officer drove up and explained that he was
> trespassing.
> "I merely inquired if this was not public property, since Amtrak is a publicly supported entity,"
> said Bourgeois. It was then, he says, the Amtrak policeman told him he was under arrest.
> Handcuffed and driven to the Amtrak police office, Bourgeois says the officer concocted an almost
> completely false account of what had occurred. Running Bourgeois' identification turned up nothing.
> During the ride to the Orleans Parish Prison, the officer, Bourgeois said, pointed to the "No
> Trespassing" sign on the chainlink fence, which he claims was not visible from the passenger
> platform.
> Booked and processed at the city jail for criminal trespass, Bourgeois says the Amtrak officer
> confiscated his wallet, his digital camera and a pocketknife. He also says the officer erased the
> Amtrak photos he had in his camera and was surprised to find a photo of a pair of Air Force A-10s
> that had flown by. Bourgeois explained that he liked airplanes because he was a pilot.
> The New Orleans police wanted to see his identification, but Bourgeois said the Amtrak officer, who
> had left the premises, had previously confiscated it. Allowed to make three telephone calls, he
> called his brother and sister-in-law who lives in Lake Charles, La. His sister-in-law made calls to
> the people waiting for Bourgeois in Pensacola. A cousin came to the jail to pay his bond. He finally
> left jail at 12:30 a.m. Sunday and recovered his belongings the next day at the terminal.
> "There is no stone I will leave unturned to get justice for this," Bourgeois says. "As I sat in jail
> my most consistent thought, after 'I have to get out of here," was 'I have to make this count for
> something.' This should never happen to anyone, again."
> Amtrak stands by its police officer that Bourgeois was belligerent and refused to leave, thereby
> giving him no choice but to arrest Bourgeois, even though he was just taking photos.
> "We don't arrest people for taking photos," the spokesman said. "We arrest people for trespassing."
> Bourgeois says he does not remember the names of any of the Amtrak personnel he was speaking to at
> the time of his arrest.
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  by hoborich
It's all part of a hush, hush plan to eliminate all the freedoms they hate us for. :wink:
Do the railroad cops really think terrorists are going to stand around on passenger platforms, taking pictures of locomotives? Maybe if you work for Amtrak, thats all there is to do.