CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The video journalist arrested by Charleston Police after he took pictures of Santa Claus and a choir at the Town Center Mall said he filed a complaint with the department about the incident but that he just wants the charges dropped.
Scott Rensberger, 47, of Washington, D.C., is charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, according to complaints filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.
According to the complaint, Rensberger slapped the hand of Charleston police Cpl. R.C. Basford as the officer attempted to block Rensberger from taking a picture of him on Dec. 7. Rensberger then "attempted to pull away" from the officer, Basford wrote in the complaint.
Rensberger said the officer grabbed at his camera and that he placed his other hand on the camera to keep it from falling. He said he was taking pictures to send to his girlfriend in Washington.
When he filed the complaint on Friday, Rensberger said he told police he was trying to grab the camera, not the officer's hand.
"They let me tell my whole story, didn't ask many questions. They told me that the police department will look into the matter very seriously," Rensberger said.
"I told them there was a window of opportunity for them to drop all charges and that we'll go from there. The longer this goes on the harder it is. You get lawyers involved. ... Basically, I'm innocent of all charges."
Rensberger, who was hired to take photos of government buildings as a subcontractor for the IRS, had just gotten back from taking photos of the Sidney L. Christie Federal Building in Huntington. He stopped at his hotel room, then went to the Charleston Town Center Mall to eat dinner and do some Christmas shopping at about 5 p.m.
"I took some pictures of the choir singing and I took some pictures of the Santa snow scene," he said. "I take my camera with me almost anywhere."
Rensberger is a freelance videographer and in 1991 won an Investigative Reporters and Editors award and was named National Press Photographers Association Photographer of the Year. He said he takes photos of all the places he visits and sends them to his girlfriend.
He went into a store to shop for a scarf for her when two men stopped him and told him he had taken a photo of one of their children with Santa Claus. He said he deleted the photos, but that when he walked back by the Santa Claus area, the two men were talking to Basford, who stopped him.
Rensberger said Basford asked him, "Why are you taking pictures of kids?"
"I can't believe you are asking me that," Rensberger said to the officer. "Do you mind if I take a picture of you?"
Rensberger said he then tried to snap a photo of Basford and that Basford grabbed at the camera.
This isn't Rensberger's first run-in with police while using a camera, as he said when originally interviewed by the Gazette.