ST. PETERSBURG — You might not know the name Eamonn Kneeshaw, but chances are good you have seen his local news videos.
Kneeshaw, 64, is a freelance videographer who has shot countless news events for television stations and many other news outlets, including tampabay.com. He is well-known in local journalism circles for zipping out to crime and accident scenes at all hours of night, recording shootings, fatalities and late-night disasters that other news crews often miss.
But now the newsman is a criminal defendant.
A St. Petersburg police officer said Kneeshaw wouldn't get out of his way while filming recently near a St. Petersburg house and that he "diverted me from performing a lawful duty which consisted of securing a crime scene, talking to witnesses, etc."
Kneeshaw was charged last month with misdemeanor obstruction, and has a trial date in August. He flatly denies the charge.
"I was not obstructing, I was doing my job, staying out of their way," Kneeshaw said. "I was on the correct side of the crime tape, I was not in their scene."
Kneeshaw arrived on March 10 near a house at 5411 Fourth Ave. N, where a man named Arthur Dixon had doused himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself afire.
After Kneeshaw arrived and began filming, Dixon threatened officers with a pair of scissors. Police shot and killed Dixon, an action the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office later ruled was justified.
Kneeshaw's attorney, John Trevena, says officers seemed to get upset not just by Kneeshaw's presence, but because he interviewed Dixon's mother, who said police overreacted by killing her son.
"I think that they were very troubled by Eamonn's interview of the mother. They wanted to stop that interview," Trevena said. He called it "unconstitutional interference with a journalist."
Asked for a response, a St. Petersburg police spokesman pointed to the arrest report. In it, an officer says Kneeshaw had refused to stay in a media area near the crime scene, and refused to back away when officers told him to.
Kneeshaw says he obeyed officers' instructions as much as possible, but in some cases the directions were vague. He says he didn't violate any police orders.
The police report also says Kneeshaw "was intoxicated and belligerent throughout this incident," but he denies being either. He says he did have a glass of wine earlier that night with his dinner.
Kneeshaw faced another obstruction charge in 2008, after Pinellas County sheriff's deputies accused him of walking through parts of the scene of an arson fire. He admitted to the offense, but the charge was dropped after he completed a program called pretrial intervention.
For the current case, Kneeshaw has an Aug. 8 trial date.
In recent years, Kneeshaw said, he has not been nearly as active shooting news videos. Changes in local news operations have cut into the need for his services.
But Kneeshaw plans one cutback for himself. Upset over this case, he said he no longer plans to shoot crime events in St. Petersburg.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.