by Victor Lopez
CRANE COUNTY--Chasing storms is what Brian Barnes does for a living. And it was while he was doing just that, that he says he found himself in a difficult and strange situation involving a Crane County Sheriff's Deputy. Barnes was out on Tuesday in Crane County as severe weather moved across the region. Crane County was under a tornado warning for about an hour Tuesday night.
"I told him that I was helping out the National Weather Service in San Angelo, and they were relaying my reports to Midland. He told me he didn't care, and that I needed to go."
Barnes thought it was his obligation to stay put and follow the storms, a decision that landed him in jail.
"He jumped out and put me in handcuffs. I turned around and I remember him slamming me up against his vehicle, and then it all got kind of scary."
Among the witnesses was Dennis Greer, who had a similar run-in, with the same deputy, just minutes earlier while he was shooting picutures of the same storm for the local newspaper.
"His first words to me were, 'are you a blankety-blank idiot?' He told me if I didn't leave, I was going to jail, flat out," Greer said.
Barnes was arrested at a road side park on Highway 385 and charged with obstruction of a highway or other passage way.
According to witnesses, there is plenty of room on on the road in front of the park for a vehicle to get by. That's why they are questioning the validity of the charge.
Dennis Greer says, "The guy wasn't blocking anything. He was able to drive a full size truck by with no problem."
In addition to the charges, people were taken aback by the deputy's attitude.
"He came down there, and was just very abusive in his language. Never once did he state to me why he would arrest me, or why he was doing anything", Greer says.
Barnes adds, "He continued to say that I was the example why people were stopping and that I was putting those other people at risk, because they were stopping behind me."
Barnes says that during his years of storm chasing, this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to him. And despite this one incident, he has good things to say, about West Texas.
"I have to say that everytime I come to West Texas, the people here are outstanding. They are the most friendly people I've ever met," he said.