Update, 4:49 p.m. -- Interim Chief Tom Chapman clarifies the city's role in suspending photography at the scene.
The parking lot behind Arcata City Hall by the library, as well as the nearest sidewalk to the lot, was closed all morning as investigators examined a suspicious device.
APD officers were directing people away from the sidewalk nearest the parking lot and not letting anyone enter the parking lot. Investigators at a Humboldt County Sheriff's trailer parked near the lot viewed the device remotely.
Around noon, APD Sgt. Jaynie Goodwin, at the scene with other APD and Sheriff's personnel, came across the street to answer some questions from the Journal . She said the police department had received the report of the suspicious device from a city employee at 9:03 a.m.
"He was working in the HealthSport area and found it strapped to a pole," Goodwin said.
The city employee, whose name she didn't know, put the device in the back of the city truck and drove it over to the library parking lot -- and Goodwin noted that's not quite the protocol for dealing with a suspicious device. Instead, leave it where it is and report it.
The device was about the size of a softball. Goodwin said she didn't know more about it. Moments later, as I was taking photographs, she came across the street again and told me to stop taking photographs. "They're saying no cell phones, no cameras," she said, referring to the investigators over by the bomb squad trailer.
City Hall was not closed and business went on as usual at the front desk, but city workers were told not to go into the back half of the building near the parking lot. "We were told to take a long lunch," said one employee inside City Hall, who'd just returned from said lunch and decided to work on a laptop in the lobby.
A little after 1 p.m. the caution tape was being wadded up and most of the police squad had rolled away. An APD spokesman inside City Hall said they'd be "sending out a little news release" soon.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me on the phone. As we discussed, APD recognizes the issue of public spaces and access either through photographing or watching, etc. At the time this occurred there was a bit of confusion. The request came from the Sheriff’s Deputies through the APD on-scene supervisor that no photographs be taken of the robot. With only partial information our supervisor requested that Heidi not take photos. It was a cordial conversation between Heidi and our officer. Unfortunately our supervisor did not have all the information and was unable to adequately explain to Heidi why she was making the request. We found out later the Sheriff’s Deputies were trying to protect the security of the bomb robot by not having photos taken while it was deployed and in-service.
I sincerely apologize that our supervisor’s request was interpreted as interfering with a reporter. After speaking with the supervisor I am confident she fully understands the right to access by both the media and the public. Please feel free to contact me directly should you have any questions or concerns.
Tom Chapman, Interim Chief of Police
Arcata Police Department
736 F Street