slight setback in LA

After a long day of shooting with Fran and Becca, we decided to meet up with Ben for the first time and check out this church that 3 of us had been to before. Ben was skating over from close by, so Fran and Becca walked over to check out the building while I waited in the car. It wasn’t long before Fran and Becca were walking back, saying there were construction workers over there and that it was a no-go. It was getting late in the day, so we headed over to another church nearby. From the pics we’d seen of this place, we weren’t expecting much, but we were running out of daylight and options. The guy that lives on the property was working on his car in the driveway, but apparently Ben didn’t see him and jumped the fence so we could get over to the church. Luckily, the guy had no idea we were there, so Ben hopped back over real quick and we just asked the dude if he cared if we went into the church. The guy was super cool and opened the gate and let us in, and of course gave the usual “be careful in there!” The door was locked, so we climbed though an opening and checked out the tiny church. Aside from watching Ben climb through the roof to get to the big bell up top and the weird collection of clocks, the only redeeming quality of the place was the view of the city from the upper level through the missing roof.

I wish we had stayed there until it was pitch black outside, but we figured we could go back to the first church where we met Ben and see if the construction workers had left. We thought we could jump the fence and get a few quick pictures inside before the sun went down. We got there with about 45 minutes to spare, Ben jumped the 8ft fence like it was hardly there, Becca struggled to get over, then Fran and I looked at each other, wondering if it’s even worth it. After a short debate, we see a chair there, and that was just enough dumb motivation for us to jump the fence to go shoot this place. We had to enter through the building next door and go up and over the roof to the church beside it. When we got in, it was obvious nothing was left. I did some walking around and shot a few pics for the hell of it, while, unbeknownst to me, Fran and Becca had already packed up and started heading back.

Before they left, they noticed a police car outside that looked like they had someone pulled over. While they waited for a good time to leave unnoticed, I was still in the other building trying to shoot what I could in the church. It was clear someone was working on the place, as it was super cleaned up and there was equipment all over. As I met back up with Ben, Fran called me, saying the cops were outside, and by this time, he was pretty sure they were out there for us. Next thing you know, there’s a helicopter circling above us. At this point, we’re both like, “WTF!?” Fran says they are going out asap to let them know we’re just taking photos, so Ben and I start looking out the windows on the opposite side of the property where a USC campus police car sat. At this point, we basically just say we’re busted and try to figure out the best way to the other building without having to cross over that roof where the LAPD helicopter is circling frantically. After 5-10 minutes of searching, we just decide to walk back across the roof and hope for the best. We actually got about halfway across the roof and I even mentioned that the helicopter doesn’t even see us, then BAM! We get hit with the spotlight. We start to go into the building, so we could leave the property, but the megaphone from helicopter demanded us to come back onto the roof with our hands up. I’m seriously thinking “are they about to repel from this helicopter just to arrest us on the roof?”, but the guy wanted us to exit the building, so we make stupid hand gestures that we needed to go into the building to leave, and he tells us to go in and make sure our hands are up when we come out. We make our way through the building, both of us shaking our heads in disbelief the entire walk, and make our way to a window that we can jump out of. When we reach the window, about 10 flashlights/spotlights hit us and a lady is screaming for us to jump out of the building with our hands up. I can hardly even see what’s going on, but by this time, Fran and Becca are both in the back of squad cars being questioned.

Ben and I both jump out of the window and we’re ordered to turn around and get on our knees. They tell me to lay on my stomach and for Ben to stand back up and walk backwards to her voice. I can only hear a bit of commotion and the helicopter circling for a few moments, then the officer yells at me to get back up and walk backwards to her voice. While I’m walking, I’m also trying to make sure I don’t bust my ass walking blindly through a construction site, so I’m trying to turn my head to look while also doing whatever I can to ensure I’m not the next unarmed guy on the news getting shot in the back by the police because they think I’m dangerous. Definitely not for a few photos.

So I finally get to the fence, where there are a handful of cops pointing their guns at my face, and they order me to throw my jacket and my bag over the fence. Like an idiot, I asked if I could put my gloves on real quick to make the climb easier, the one lady says go ahead, but when i reach for them, this huge dude yells at me, pointing his gun, saying not to reach for anything, just climb the damn fence. I told him it’s not exactly easy, but surprisingly he didn’t care. I hop down and I’m quickly cuffed and searched. Of course they find nothing but camera equipment, and throw me in the back of a car. After what seemed like 30 minutes, a friendly (they were really actually all pretty friendly) officer walks over and says he basically isn’t sure what’s going on, that we could get out of jail in 4-5 hours, or it may be Monday (this was a Friday night) before we can see a judge. I’m just hoping at this point that we get out that night sometime. Finally, everyone starts to clear out, they put me in the back of a car with Ben, and take us to the station. The driver wasn’t quite as optimistic as the last guy I talked to and said she doubted we’d get out until Monday or Tuesday. My flight home is Monday afternoon, so I begin to freak a little. We get to the station, Fran and Becca are there already, they took our shoestrings, then finally took my cuffs off and tossed me in a holding cell. A few moments later and Fran and Ben join myself and another dude that was already in there, pacing and asking to speak with a detective. Becca was in a female cell with a couple other women. We were soon joined by a dude balling hysterically and speaking Spanish. He finally calmed down and started bugging every person that walked by for a phone call or a lawyer. We get pretty far into this story of the other guy, who was trading sexual favors for drugs and money,  then an officer came and got me and told me we had to come back for court, but that we were free to go. I wish I could’ve heard the rest of the story, but I was just happy to be leaving and that I would be sleeping in a bed that night. The others soon followed and the police were even nice enough to give us a ride back to the car. I’m glad I took at least a couple photos. Fran and Becca didn’t even get to take any. Here are a few I took. Hopefully I’ll never see that place again. I’ll post about the rest of the weekend at a later date…

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