Little Canada man sues Ramsey County for confiscating and erasing his camera

A Little Canada man is suing Ramsey County for some video missing from his camera, which he says could have exonerated him.

A Little Canada man is suing Ramsey County for some video missing from his camera, which he says could have exonerated him. Getty Images/iStockphoto

It was a late-autumn night in 2012. Andrew Henderson, a welder just getting off work, arrived at his Little Canada apartment building a half-hour shy of midnight. He was greeted by an unfamiliar sight: a Ramsey County deputy standing outside the door.

Deputy J. Muellner was locked out, waiting for someone to let her in. Henderson used his key to let her inside, and then he took a seat on a nearby bench. Moments later, a neighbor he recognized came outside, drunk and flanked by two paramedics and the deputy Henderson had allowed to enter. Henderson gave his neighbor a brief hello as they passed.

From about 30 feet away, Henderson watched the deputies pat down his fellow resident. Then he quietly retrieved a camera he was keeping in the front pocket of his hoodie and pressed “record.”

Not long after that, Muellner seemed to realize she was being watched. She walked up and asked him what he was doing.

Henderson kept the camera low, just above his lap, with the deputy in view. He told her he was recording. That’s when, he says, without warning or instructions, she reached out, snatched the camera out of his hands and put it away.

He says he told her it was perfectly legal for him to be recording the incident.

“Okay,” she said. “But if I end up on YouTube, I’m going to be upset.”

That’s all according to a complaint Henderson filed against Ramsey County and Deputy Muellner last week. It goes on to say that Henderson watched helplessly as Muellner fiddled with the camera in her squad car. When he finally got it back, which was days later, the video of the incident was gone.

Nearly a week after that, Henderson received a citation in the mail. He’d been charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of legal process. The complaint against him said he was only three to five feet away when he was recording, and that he was getting in the way of paramedics trying to do their jobs. Henderson says that’s not at all what happened, and that their account of events could have easily been disproven -- if the footage hadn’t conveniently disappeared.

Henderson wound up standing trial in criminal court. He was acquitted of all charges, but the incident, he says, put a black mark on his record. Later, when he was laid off from his welding job for unrelated reasons, he struggled to find his next job because the shadow of the criminal case followed him wherever he went.

He eventually did find another welding gig, the Pioneer Press reported, but he’s suing for lost wages and emotional distress, not to mention what he says was a violation of his First, Fourth, and 14th Amendment rights.

No official amount has been decided on yet, but he told the Press that it might be around $75,000. Ramsey County, meanwhile, has denied Henderson’s claims.

Henderson told the Press it’s not about the money -- it’s the principle of the thing.

“I just want this not to happen to another person ever again in Ramsey County.”