A Photographer Gets Slammed: A Tale of Context

So, did you see that Secret Service agent slam that photographer to the floor during a Trump rally? It was pretty brutal to watch. In fact, I must have viewed a dozen news articles showing the agent throw the photographer to the ground. Most of the stories ran with the narrative that the agent “attacked” the photographer without cause and absent any provocation. Shocking. Truly shocking.

But, then I dug a little deeper. Within twenty minutes I located a video clip that was not being posted by major news outlets. The funny thing was that it appeared most of the news outlets were using a video recorded by the same person who also recorded the clip below. However, the clip below did not go with the narrative, and was therefore ignored.

Here is a video of the photographer, who has pushed outside of the media area, pressing against the agent while cursing at him. Keep in mind, the Secret Service does not work for Donald Trump (who I happen to believe is a deplorable human being). They work for the United States government and are simply trying to make sure they can repel an attack on a protectee. Here is a clip filmed prior to the physical confrontation:

Well… that’s different.

This video contradicts the photographer’s initial claims that he had done nothing more than left the designated media area. However, even as a former Secret Service agent, I cringed when I saw the level of force used by the agent. But, there are a few things to keep in mind.

• At the time of the incident, a large group of protesters were yelling and marching around the venue. This creates stress, chaos, and can be viewed as an intentional or unintentional diversion for an attack. Security professionals immediately go on high alert when something like this occurs.

• In the video of the photographer cursing at the agent, you cannot see the photographer’s hands. At a minimum, the photographer appears to be resisting the agent’s attempts to push him back from the restricted area. However, I’ve been in situations like this where an individual was pushing, shoving, grabbing, and even punching me in the stomach, yet few in a crowd could see this happening. At an Inaugural parade, a local businessman flung an umbrella at me after holding it over our heads. At the opening of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., a man who was angry that he could not enter the memorial immediately punched me in the stomach. While these assaults happened in the midst of thousands of people, virtually nobody saw them happen. But, I have little doubt that EVERYBODY would have noticed if I would have reacted with a high level of physical force. That’s the way it happens. Even in a football game, it’s the player who retaliates that usually gets the penalty flag thrown on him.

“So, the photographer may have pushed the agent a bit? The agent threw him down!” you might say. Sure. It may have been extreme. But, do you know what I would have been thinking if the photographer’s hands were on my torso? I would have been thinking that the man’s hands were inches away from my firearm and that this possible diversion needs to be dealt with immediately.

There are situations where calm, slow mediation is appropriate. A chaotic situation when you’re protecting one of the most controversial and polarizing Presidential candidates in history is NOT one of those situations. Again, I don’t know if the level of force used by the agent was appropriate. But, I sure as hell am not going to make that call based on a series of fast-moving, out-of-context video clips.

Now, more than ever, it is important to view stories like this with a critical eye. The media has a habit of taking incidents like this and capitalizing on them in order to gain readers and viewers. In this case, the implication was that the Secret Service was acting as one of “Trump’s thugs” which is simply not the case, as I’ve explained before. This was likely a case in which both parties could have done things differently and hundreds of witnesses and just as many cameras failed to capture the entire story.

The truth usually extends way beyond a ten second video recorded on a cell phone.

Feel free to comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology





5 thoughts on “A Photographer Gets Slammed: A Tale of Context

  1. Pingback: A Photographer Gets Slammed: A Tale of Context | DHS News

  2. Joe C

    Great post! I’m so tired of these types of clips being taken out of context. Every time I hear about a police brutality case, I always wonder what part of the story the press has chosen to ignore in order to make the headline.

    That certainly isn’t to say there aren’t acts of law enforcement which go beyond reasonable measures. If CNN or whoever wants to report on it, tell us the entire story, not just the headline-grabbing parts.

    1. J.J. Hensley Post author

      Thanks, Joe. I share your frustration. I think the real problem with this example is the fact that it appears many media outlets intentionally ignored the provoking event since both of those clips were posted by the same journalist.

  3. Pingback: So, You Want to Go to the GOP Convention… | Steel City Intrigue

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