BOISE, Idaho — A man stopped to film Boise Police in a parking garage -- then, he found himself under arrest.
"I was leaving a parking garage after work and saw officers," 29-year-old Ty Justin Werenka said. "I left the garage and came back to film what was going on. As I was leaving, police stopped me and said I was interfering."
Werenka says he is known to the Boise Police Department because of his association to Boise Mutual Aid and he said he films police officers anytime he sees them interacting with the public. He doesn't call himself an activist, rather, he said that he's a citizen that is concerned with protecting marginalized people in Boise.
He's also been previously arrested by Idaho State Police during a protest at the Capitol and ticketed by Boise Police at another protest. The two different incidents involving Werenka were eventually dismissed.
As body camera footage obtained by KTVB and Werenka's own cell phone camera footage shows, Boise Police Corporal Denny Carter and officer Avery Westendorf were giving someone what appears to be a traffic ticket in a parking garage in downtown Boise. Werenka was leaving the garage at the time but returned to film the incident on his phone from about 50 feet away.
On June 11, 2022, Werenka is seen on Boise Police body camera footage leaving the parking garage downtown when Carter approaches and asks, "Why are you interfering in this investigation?"
In the video, Carter is heard saying that the parking attendant had already asked Werenka to leave. Werenka countered the comment, saying the attendant didn't tell him he couldn't come back after he initially left the garage, but that he was leaving anyway.
Werenka filmed the entire interaction with his phone, which spanned about ten minutes. In the phone recording, Carter can be seen in the video moving closer to Werenka, telling him he was "interfering." Werenka is heard in the video asking Cpl. Carter what he was interfering with.
It was at that point Carter is seen slapping the cell phone out of Werenka's hands, pushing him against a wall and placing him under arrest.
During the arrest, Werenka repeatedly told Carter he was not resisting. After he was arrested and was told to sit on a curb, Carter is heard in the video saying Werenka put his phone in Carter's face and tried to assault him.
"I wasn't trying to assault you," Werenka said. "But I'm glad your camera's on."
Carter is heard in the video telling Werenka that he was arresting him for "resisting and obstructing."
Video of the events leading up to Werenka's arrest is posted below and in this link.
A complaint filed in October of 2022 against Werenka states that on June 11, 2022, Werenka "did willfully resist, obstruct, or delay a public officer, to-wit: Cpl. Carter in the attempt to discharge a duty of his office, by failing to leave the area and/or moving his phone six inches from Cpl. Carter's face which blocked his vision and/or tensing his arm/muscles while trying to pull away from Cpl. Carter's grasp..."
The complaint said Werenka violated Idaho law by resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.
"They arrested me, took me to the station, said my phone was evidence and that I was resisting or obstructing," Werenka told KTVB. "They said I tensed up my arms, but even in the video, you can hear me say that I'm not resisting."
The charges against Werenka were dismissed on Oct. 26, 2022. In the motion to dismiss, the City of Boise states, "Although there was probable cause for the initiation of this case, there has been a change in the complexion of the State's case and the State can no longer prove the matter beyond a reasonable doubt."
Werenka's lawyer, Johnathan Baldauf, said the first time he saw the video, his jaw dropped.
"It's a clear violation of (Werenka's) rights. This is the most egregious behavior by an officer that I've been involved in and it probably happens more than I'd like to think," Baldauf told KTVB. "The response we are hoping to get is that they come back and make things right.
Baldauf says "given the current climate" BPD needs to do something.
"The abuse of power by Carter is pretty blatant and the other cop could have stepped in. The Westendorfs need to step up too," Baldauf added.
After the charges were dismissed, Werenka filed a notice of a tort claim against the City of Boise, the Boise Police Department and the Office of the Boise City Attorney on Dec. 7, 2022.
"The City of Boise, the Office of the Boise City Attorney, and the Boise Police Department and/or their agents did either intentionally or as a result of gross negligence falsely charge and arrest the Claimant," the claim stated.
The claim also states that Carter slapped the phone out of Werenka's hand, seized Werenka's camera as evidence and did not return it until the month of April, and that Westendorf failed to intervene in the situation.
"As a direct and proximate cause of the actions of the Respondents, the Claimant suffered economic damages, damages to his reputation, psychic damages that required the continued use of a counselor, injury to his wrist and back that required treatment at an urgent care clinic, had to hire an attorney to defend himself, and lost the use of his phone for more than a month," the claim stated.
Werenka is seeking $500,000 in damages but said that he is more angry than anything else.
"The police have a less dangerous job than a taxicab driver, less dangerous than a nurse," Werenka said. "Less dangerous than a large, wide variety of jobs. But this officer, along with many other officers took it upon himself to act like he was in real mortal danger, because somebody dared video what he was doing."
According to Casey Parsons, an attorney with Wrest Collective, people have the general right to film police.
"That's protected by the First Amendment. The only real limitation to that is that you can't obstruct an officer's investigation into a particular crime. But so long as you're in a public setting, you have an almost absolute right to film the police," Parsons said.
In an email to KTVB, interim Boise Police Chief Ron Winegar said, "The video is concerning and we have initiated an internal investigation into the matter. We take all allegations of misconduct seriously, especially those relating to the use of force. We cannot comment further due to pending litigation, but we will continue to share information as we are able."
A City of Boise spokesperson said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
"It also certainly doesn't inspire any confidence in the Boise Police Department," Werenka said. "I've filmed police many times and I won't be intimidated by this, but I feel more cautious."
He and his attorney want the city to terminate the two officers involved and send him a written apology.
"It all seems unlikely, but some kind of accountability needs to happen," Werenka said.
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