Boise man jailed after filming police tort claim over ‘wrongful arrest’

BOISE — Just before 3 a.m. on a warm Saturday morning in June, a parking attendant told Ty Werenka to leave a garage in downtown Boise. Werenka, 29, had just spent a few minutes filming a police investigation into a minor traffic accident in a garage.

As he walked towards one of the garage exits, officers began following him.

“Why are you interfering with this investigation?” Corporal Danny Carter asked. Werenka started recording again.

He held the phone up to a horizontal surface and asked Carter what he was interfering with.

“Get that off my face,” Carter said, slapping the phone to the ground. He grabbed Werenka’s arm and pushed him forward a few feet, placing Werenka’s face first against the cinder block wall as he handcuffed him.

“I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting,” Velenka yelled. Carter told Velenka that he had been arrested for resisting and obstructing.

Charges against Werenka were dropped last fall, but the arrest prompted him to file a tort lawsuit against the city alleging he was wrongfully arrested.

Footage of the arrest from three angles taken by Werenka and police body cameras was obtained by the Idaho politician through Werenka and a public records request.

In an interview, Werenka said he wanted to bring the case to light to make sure Boise residents and local law enforcement knew they had the right to film police officers. He said he hopes to draw attention to the issue to prevent future arrests in similar circumstances.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” says Velenka. “I want to dissuade them from doing it again.”

Police say he fears for his safety

Velenka said he was physically and mentally hurt by his arrest. Carter said in a police report that he feared for his safety when he arrested Werenka.

The city and its agencies have 90 days to make infringement claims on Dec. 7. Nearly two months after filing the claim, Werenka and his attorney, Johnathan Baldauf, said city officials have still not responded.

City spokeswoman Maria Weeg said in an email that the city “does not comment on pending infringement claims.”

Werenka, whose father is black and mother is white, said he routinely filmed police interactions in public.

Werenka said that since 2020, when the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked mass protests and renewed calls for police to be held accountable, his concerns about the filming of his encounters with police officers have grown. more determined.

“As a Brown, Idaho native, I’ve had countless negative experiences with the police, and I’ve always hoped that others would do the same for me,” Werenka said.

He said the police “never liked me on set, but they wouldn’t get into a physical fight with me.” Of his dozens of interactions with police, Varenka added, “It’s never happened before.”

He said some Boise police officers appeared to recognize him from his filming and involvement in local events, but noted he had never interacted with Westendorf or Carter before his arrest. Neither officer mentioned identifying Werenka in their reports.

The politician reviewed video footage from Werenka’s phone that showed him filming the area where the Carter and Westendorf patrol cars were parked before the parking attendant told him to leave. Another video clip from Werenka’s phone begins as Carter approaches him.

Carter wrote in the police report that he saw Verenka arguing with a parking lot attendant and “did not leave” when he approached Verenka.

Carter wrote that he approached Wellenka and explained to him that when Wellenka began filming, he was interfering with police officers’ ability to complete traffic accident investigations. Carter wrote that when Verenka held his phone about 6 inches from Carter’s face, he told Warenka that he was “interfering with my ability to resolve the current investigation/situation.”

“It blocked my view and based on Verenka’s unusual behavior, I feared for my safety,” Carter wrote. “I slapped the phone/camera from in front of my face and grabbed Verenka’s right wrist with my right hand. Werenka then tensed his arms/muscles in an attempt to resist.”

Werenka said he did not resist and said he insisted on pointing it out during his arrest.

“It’s definitely a security (or) protection strategy,” he said. “I hope at least the verbal transcript of my non-revolt will be recorded.”

Verenka says freedom of speech restricted

Carter’s body camera footage showed him handcuffing Verenka and placing him in the back seat of a patrol car at around 3:04 a.m. Werenka was checked into the Ada County Jail at 3:38 a.m., according to jail records. Werenka said he was released about an hour later after paying a $300 cash bond, though prison records do not show when he was released.

In the infringement claim, Baldauf said the department kept Werenka’s phone as evidence until Baldauf intervened in August. One boycott and obstruction charge against Werenka carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in prison.

Baldauf said he filed a motion on Oct. 12 following important discussions with prosecutors. 25 Charges dismissed. The charge was dropped five days before the trial was scheduled to begin on October 10. 31.

“It took some convincing and passionate action, but ultimately prosecutors saw the writing on the wall and dropped the charges,” Baldauf said.

Idaho law requires tort claims to notify government entities of potential allegations of wrongdoing involving them or their employees. The government can settle claims by paying damages or denying compensation. If the infringement claim is denied, the complainant can sue.

Werenka is seeking $500,000 in damages.

In his notice, Werenka said he “suffered financial loss, reputational loss, emotional loss requiring continued access to a counselor, wrist and back injuries requiring treatment at an urgent care clinic.”

He also said the arrest limited his right to free speech and to document police activity.

Werenka said the arrest had a lasting impact.

“I’m not usually timid,” Velenka said. “It’s very painful for me in terms of continuing to film the police. It’s like, are these rights for me or someone else’s?”

Although the charges were dropped, Welenka and his attorney said they wanted to make it clear to local police and Boise residents that such an arrest was unacceptable.

“We’re educating the public,” Baldauf said. “How many times has something like what happened to Ty happen to people who don’t have the money or the power to do anything?”

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