‘Suspicious momma bear at park’ journal entry becomes affidavit

[When you are involved in a conflict, a mishap, a car accident or an argument that has potential legal implications, follow my practice and make an affidavit, getting it notarized by a bank clerk or other official as soon as possible to authenticate its creation and its veracity.

A confrontation Saturday over my taking photos at the Tennessee Riverpark could have turned ugly. The moment I got home I wrote what might legally be called a “contemporaneous memorandum” describing how I was impugned, assailed and questioned for innocent public acts of photography in our age of the ubiquitous image recording device. Draw your own conclusions about the state of our society from a doleful incident. American culture is atomized, noncommunal in outlook, internally suspicious and in many instances lacking in grace. We live in an age of lenses and the digital image, in chain stores, libraries, courts and public spaces. Everyone with a telephone has a camera and many people use them that way. — DJT]

I make the best of a touchy situation during a Saturday stroll with a son along a riverside walk and playground.

I make the best of a touchy situation during a Saturday stroll with a son along a riverside walk and playground.

Affidavit of David Jonathan Tulis

Composed April 5, 2014, 4:30 p.m.

Comes now David Jonathan Tulis of 10520 Brickhill Lane, Soddy-Daisy, county of Hamilton, Tennessee, and does affirm the following as facts, this affidavit drafted 30 minutes after the encounter at the riverpark with park officer K. Jennings, no. 2201. I affirm this record is a true and accurate record of events at Chattanooga River Park, Saturday, April 5, 2014, at about 3:15 p.m.

1. I was at the Tennessee River Park with my son, Jacob Robert Tulis, 11, bearing a backpack with food and drink, a camera, digital audio recorder, pen and notecards, as I am a writer, editor and publisher.

2. After eating lunch, the boy and I proceeded to the park’s playground.

3. I knelt and took several photographs, some including my son, and others without him in the frame.

4. An unidentified woman approached me as I moved about to get better prospective views of my child. She said she saw me aim my camera at her children, and I said I had. She asked me not to photograph them. I asked which four were hers, and she described them, though not all were visible to me.

5. I agreed not to photograph them. I said I was in the park taking photos of the park, of the people in it, and my son, as I am a publisher and editor, and always in need of file photos.

6. She approached another woman amid the throng, pointed to me, and seemed to be talking about me. I approached these two women. “That man is taking photos of other people’s children,” she said. I said, “Ladies, I am here with my son, that boy there. My name is David Tulis and I am a publisher and editor and I am innocently taking photos in this park. I am not harming anyone or doing anything wrong.”

7. I withdrew, and invited my son to walk toward the dam, where our car was parked.

8. Officer K. Jennings came up from behind as I was in the middle of snapping a photo of the business school entrance at Chattanooga State.

9. He said there had been a complaint about me, that I was taking photos of other people’s children. He appeared sheepish in confronting me, but acted in a professional and courteous manner, wearing a green uniform and a holstered weapon.

10. Officer Jennings did not get out of his vehicle, and I stood next to it and we spoke. I said, “My name is David Tulis, and I am here with my son. We were in the playground.”

11. He said a woman had complained, to a maintenance worker, who had told the police officer. A man carrying a baby, he said, had pointed out me, bearing a blue knapsack. He just wanted to hear my side, as a complaint had been lodged, anonymously.

12. He said the woman who had made the complaint had not identified herself, and he apologized.

13. “I told the woman who I am, as I have nothing to hide,” I said. “I am in this park entirely innocently. My name is David Tulis — that’s David Tulis — and I am a publisher, editor and writer and always in need of images, and images without my own children in them. Here, would you like my card?” He said it wasn’t necessary, but I lay my backpack in his seat of his electric buggy and fished it out. Officer Jennings looked at it closely and read the name of my website, saying “Nooga.com.” I corrected him, “No, it’s Nooganomics.com, and I cover local economy and free market.” I asked him for his card, and he said he did not have one, but wrote his name and badge number on the back of my business card and handed it back to me. “Are you sure you won’t neeed it?” I asked about my card. He said no.

14. I said it is a sad state of affairs to be viewed so suspiciously, saying that published news stories the past 10 days about a park and ballfield photographer on Lookout Mountain should not necessarily warrant my being viewed with suspicion. “No one in a public park has any expectation of privacy,” Officer Jennings said.

15. To which I replied: “No, you are right. And cameras abound nowadays, with there being a camera on every person who has a phone. There are more cameras in the park in 30 minutes than there would be in a week 10 years ago.”

16. Our parting was courteous and calm. “I appreciate your kind and courteous treatment of me,” I said to Officer Jennings as we took our leave.

17. Further the affiant sayeth not.

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