Beaverton police face lawsuit over videotaped arrest

Beaverton police face lawsuit over videotaped arrest »Play Video
This still photo is one of the few images that remained on Hao Vang's cell phone after police returned it to him.

BEAVERTON, Ore. – A local man is suing the city and one of its police officers for being arrested last year and having his cell phone camera confiscated while recording the arrest of his friend.

Hao Vang is seeking $100,000 in damages in a federal civil rights suit.

Vang was outside the Valley Lanes bowling alley Aug. 27, 2008 and became concerned that police officers were being too rough with his friend, Bryce King, who’s mentally ill. He took out his cell phone, began recording video and narrating the scene as it unfolded before him.

Within moments, Vang found himself under arrest for recording audio of the officers without their permission. He was thrown in jail for the night. The city attorney never prosecuted the case on the charge of intercepting communications.

“If they’re not doing something wrong, they shouldn’t be afraid of being recorded,” said Vang. “What are we going to do, call 9-1-1 and have their teammates come over and do nothing about it?”

Beaverton police said King punched someone and then resisted arrest.

Vang said Beaverton and its police officer, Jason Buelt, improperly arrested him and illegally took his phone from him.

When Vang got his phone back from Beaverton police nearly two months after he was jailed, the video clip was missing. All that remains is a few still photos, one pictured above.

The city of Beaverton said Buelt acted within the scope of his job that night and that there was reasonable suspicion to detain Vang and probable cause to arrest him.

The city also said any search of his cell phone was done lawfully and did not violate his constitutional rights.

Vang said he filed suit because his conversations with the city were going nowhere, a dilemma he said has taken an emotional toll on him.

“I’ve been through a lot of stress, especially the first four or five months,” he said.

The Beaverton city attorney didn’t returned phone calls seeking comment on this story.

Oregon's interception of communication law – ORS 165.543(1) – says someone's guilty of a Class "A" misdemeanor if they "willfully intercept ... or attempt to intercept ...any wire or oral communication where such person is not a party to the communication and where none of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to the interception."