His Photo Isn’t Finished: Chelsea Man Files Suit for False Arrest over Taking Pictures at Son’s Soccer Game

As Rodrigo Blanco tells it, he was minding his own business in Highland Park last June watching his kids play a soccer game when there was a commotion on the field.

The soccer goal had malfunctioned and it appeared that one of the kids might have been hurt.

With several other parents behind him, Blanco ran to the goal area and observed a young boy with a head injury.

“He ran over thinking it was his son, but when he got there he saw it was another boy that was the same age, and that boy was suffering from a head injury,” said Blanco’s attorney, Myong Joun of Joun Law Offices in Arlington. “He noticed that the goalpost was not secured and that it had fallen on the boy’s head. He saw that the post had part of the boy’s hair on it and decided that he had better document the incident. So, he started taking photos of the boy and the unsecured goalpost.”

Chelsea Police responding to the scene at the same time as firefighters apparently followed standard protocol in order to secure the area and to provide the injured boy with his right to privacy as he was being worked on by EMT’s – at least this is what Chelsea police who were at the scene are likely to say when the incident and its outcome is determined in court.

According to the responding officers, Blanco was arrested because he refused to leave the perimiter where the young boy was being treated – not because he had taken photographs.

Police Chief Brian Kyes, himself a lawyer, was hesitant to make any comments regarding the legal action being taken against the responding officers.

“I think it is always in the best interest of the CPD to refrain from making any specific comments regarding any facts or circumstances of any and all pending litigation, civil or otherwise, so as not to unintentionally adversely affect the rights of both the plaintiffs or defendants or to otherwise jeopardize the integrity of the fair and impartial judicial process which is the appropriate forum to resolve these type of disputes,” Kyes told the Chelsea Record Tuesday morning.

At that time, Kyes said he had not yet received or read the court papers relating to the suit.

Also, Chelsea City Solicitor Cheryl Watson did not receive court documents filed by Attorney Joun until late Tuesday afternoon. Joun sent a press release on the matter to the Chelsea Record on Monday.

Chelsea City Solicitor Cheryl Watson will be representing the police officers charged in this matter on the legal claims made by Joon on behalf of Blanco.

Watson said the city is not a defendant in this law suit but and that the city has a protocol of defending its police officers in such circumstances.

According to Joun, Blanco was arrested by two Chelsea Police officers after refusing to delete the photos. He was charged with interfering with a firefighter and disorderly conduct. The charges were pursued and he had to go to court several times, though eventually the charges were thrown out in Chelsea District Court.

According to Yoon, Blanco did not delete the photographs as requested by police. In addition, it is Yoon’s belief that the photographs still exist.

Now, he has filed a Civil Suit in Boston’s Federal Court against the City of Chelsea and against the two officers, patrolmen Dustin Chodrick and Felix Rivera.

He is requesting monetary damages in the suit to be determined by a jury.

Blanco, who is a 45-year-old professional photographer, has never filed a lawsuit before, and his attorney said that the incident was very unfortunate.

“He was very surprised by how the incident unfolded,” said Joun. “He was simply taking photographs of the goalposts with his phone. The EMTs and firefighters were tending to the boy. If you look at his pictures, there was a distance between him and them. So, there was no basis for him being charged with interfering. The whole issue was him taking pictures and then not deleting them when the officers ordered him to do so.

“The whole scene was very scary,” he continued. “His wife and kids were there and there was all this commotion and no one knew what was going on. His kids just saw him being taken away in handcuffs and they were crying and confused. It was traumatic.”

Joun said that Blanco was not confrontational and allowed officers to look at his photos, which is documented in a police report. The matter took a wrong turn, though, only when he said he didn’t want to delete the photos.

“A police officer has a lot of power and it has to be measured with what is lawful and what is not lawful,” said Joun. “This is a Civil Rights lawsuit based on the Fourth Amendment dealing with unlawful seizure.”

Also, Joun said there were emotional damages here because Blanco was charged by officers and had to go to court several times to face the charges.

“He was afraid,” said Joun. “He’s never been involved with the law before or the courts. He was afraid he might actually be convicted of these crimes and that took a toll.”

Joun said that there has already been one positive outcome in the situation, and that is that the Chelsea Police have drawn up a new policy about when a person can be ordered to stop taking pictures and when they cannot.

“What’s interesting is after the incident the ACLU was involved in this and looking at the issue of why he was arrested,” said Joun. “The Chelsea Police Department didn’t have a policy on this. Soon after, Chief [Brian] Kyes looked into it and determined there was a need for a policy with strict guidelines about when an officer can and cannot arrest someone for taking pictures. That new guideline is a positive here already.”

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