Public Reacts to Storm Chaser Arrest

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

PECOS COUNTY - An Oklahoma storm chaser is arrested and jailed while taking video from a road side park in Crane County.

After this story aired on NewsWest 9, emails and phone calls started pouring in.

Not only are local residents speaking out, this story has gained nationwide attention after being linked on several national websites.

E-mails came from as nearby as Stanton, and as far away as Chicago and Seattle.

Most have some pretty harsh words to say about how the whole situation was handled.

If Brian Barnes was wanting the word to get out about his arrest, he definitley got his wish.

People are talking.   And it's everybody from regular citizens to fellow storm chasers.

One viewer in Stanton writes,  "This policeman's behavior is unrespresentative of the population in general; it is however respresentative in general of law enforcement's dysfunctional approach to the application of power."

These two messages come from people, who know what goes on, during a storm chase,  "Who does this....[person]....think reports to the TV stations and the national weather service?  Storm chasers do.  We keep the public aware of the threat and take a lot pride in doing it.  This is a blatant abuse of authority and the cop should be punished for doing this."

"Your article states that he was at a roadside park.  I sincerely doubt he was obstructing traffic.  This was just a pathetic example of one officer getting fed up at seeing ...[people].... storm chase.  This officer lost his temper and, at least with me, his credibility as law enforcement."

An out of state viewer made this interesting comparsion,  "The sheriff's department might want to be looking for a replacement for the abusive deputy.  It sounds to me like the guy who (allegedly) bullied Brian Barnes is auditioning to become a cop here in Chicago."

One particular email, references a tornado that devastated an entire town, just a year ago.

"It's good to know that the Crane County Sheriffs department is concerned about informing the public about potential tornados and storms. The power tripping deputy needs to visit Greensburg, Kansas. I would like to see this guy publicly apologize to the citizens of Crane County and to the Storm Chasers who provide a much needed service."

While the majority of the comments are on Barnes' side, one comment suggests that maybe, he is making too much out of the situation.  It reads,  "Mr. Barnes is making a big deal of this and notifying news media with accompanying video "proving" the police officer was acting in an unlawful manner himself."

Newswest 9 previously reported that the Crane County Sheriff's Office did not answer our  request for comment.   After speaking to Sheriff Robert de Leon Thursday afternoon, we found out that he did return our calls, but they didn't go through, due to bad cell phone service.

In a press release issued Thursday afternoon, Sheriff DeLeon says -"we regret that Mr. Barnes took it upon himself to recklessly disregard a reasonable request or order to leave the immediate vecinity.  The deputy was in uniform and driving a sheriff's vehicle.   He gave what we believe to be a reasonable request or order to Barnes and his companions to leave for their safety."