Dangerous Weapons

Shawn Newberry was in the news again yesterday. In case you don’t recognize the name, he’s the 18 year old who first came to our attention when he wore a bullet proof vest to Life Skills Center. Then we learned he shot an AK-47 at a newspaper box and videotaped it. Then we’re told he had child pron* on his PC. Now we find out he had “suspicious” photos of the new USF/PCC building.

And that last item is what caught my attention.

I’ll be blunt. I don’t see any need why anyone needs to own an AK-47. However, when I read Newberry had at least four of the assault rifles, I didn’t blink an eye. I’ve become sadly numb to all the guns in our community. We have a vocal pro gun lobby. We get what they pay for.

I barely yawned when it was announced he had videotaped himself shooting up a Ledger box. I just imagined it was one of the old Lakeland Ledger boxes someone wanted disposed of. As for videotaping, I just thank heaven there wasn’t the technology freely available when I was a kid. This generation, more than any other, documents their stupidity.

The pron* concerned me. After years as a systems administrator at a public library, I know how many people search out pron* and how easy it is to find it. I also know parents need to check their children’s PCs often. When they live at your home, it is your responsibility to monitor their activities.

The final pictures released yesterday worried me, but not just for the obvious reason. The building featured in the photos is the new USF/PCC joint use building on the Lakeland campus. The Lakeland Police Department considered the photos “highly suspicious.”

My wife works there.

Lakeland police released the photos and said they have no knowledge that Newberry was plitting against the campus and its citizens. Yet, LPD’s Jack Gillen is also quoted as saying, “Some of the pictures were taken from the vantage point of balconies where there were doors from the street present. That’s something you would have to look at from a vulnerability stand point.”

You can see the photos (pdf) for yourself at the LPD’s new media release website, LPD News Online.

As I looked at the photos, I realized I would never consider them suspicious. The first two are a computer wire rack and a PC monitor and keyboard. The next is the main hallway of the new building. With the light, reflections and angles it makes a perfect place for a interesting photo of perspective. The next is a pedestrian photo capturing the full width of the building. It’s followed by another, better shot, of the building’s front. Again though, it’s too far away for much impact. It’s followed by a really interesting photo of the stair well. It’s over exposed though. The penultimate photo is a poor shot through a back window looking South. While the final photo also reflects the photographer’s love of perspective.

All in all, they were photography 101. Exactly the kind of pictures someone with a new interest in photography takes. I’m highly suspicious by nature, and I couldn’t see anything to worry about in these photos. Evidently I’m alone in that assessment.

10 News showed the video and still photos to students, teachers and staff on campus. All expressed real concern over what they believe Newberry might have been planning. — Tampabays10.com

Of course, I am concerned that my wife works in a public building. I know from experience what it like to have a gunman at your workplace. There are ways we can make our public buildings safer. None of those ways concern changing our vies of photographers.

Yet, I see that happening in our society. We’re starting to become suspicious of the people with cameras.. Taking pictures of buildings is an art. It is capturing history. So much of what we build is temporary and would be lost if not for photographers — both professional and amateur.

What concerns me is that we’re told Newberry’s photos are suspicious, but no one found it troubling that he owned four AK 47s.