ENID, Okla. — Garfield County was brought into the spotlight this week after video of an incident at the Garfield County Court House between Garfield County Sheriff's Office officials and a "First Amendment auditor" gained widespread attention online.
The sheriff's office issued a public statement on its Facebook page Thursday.
"The incident began as a call of a suspicious person filming courthouse employees counting large quantities of money. Those employees, fearing for their safety and unsure of this person's intentions, called courthouse security deputies," part of the posts reads. "We would also like to assure the public that the issue has been addressed, and extra training will be conducted to ensure any similar situations will come to different conclusions. We are not perfect, but it is always our first goal to serve and protect the public."
In the video posted Nov. 13 on the YouTube channel "News Now Patrick," self-described First Amendment auditor Patrick Roth filmed the courthouse, displays, signs and courthouse employees on the first floor before going to the second floor where deputies were.
For the initial conversation the officials asked Roth what he was doing, and Roth said he was taking photographs of the area and that "the judge" said as long as he wasn't in the courtroom, it was alright, according to the video.
Following a short walk around the public area of the courthouse on the second floor, Roth talked in the video about one of the deputies acting aggressive while Roth filmed him. The deputy and Roth went back and forth about the deputy not giving permission to take his photograph, and Roth saying it's legal for him to do so without permission.
The deputy asked who Roth was and for his identification and Roth refused, the video showed. Roth continued in the video saying the deputy used vulgar language, a raised voice and was aggressive. Roth also talked to another official about filing a formal complaint against the deputy.
At onepoint, Roth attempted to leave the second floor but found it locked. He said in the video the deputy locked the door and was illegally detaining him. A courthouse visitor shortly after entered the second floor and Roth left through the door when it was opened.
The deputy followed Roth outside and similar discussion between the two occurred with the deputy asking for Roth's identification. Later in the video, Roth discussed the situation with two other sheriff's office officials that arrived on scene and Roth claimed the deputy misquoted the law. One of the officials told Roth to stay away with his camera, and that if he were return, Roth would be arrested for trespassing.
Roth followed the officials back to the entrance of the courthouse and confronted them.
"I promise you by tomorrow morning you will regret what you did," Roth told the sheriff's office officials. "I have 40,000 subscribers on YouTube, and I promise you they're all going to be upset about what you did ... so you just made a big mistake buddy and your career, I'm telling you, it's coming to an end."
This week Roth posted two other videos where he discussed the courthouse incident further, and another where he walks around the city administration building at 401 W. Garriott. In one of the follow-up videos Roth said the "hillbilly" deputy couldn't articulate a crime and said the deputy was "half-retarded."
"It’s pretty much an accountability issue. I just go in there and pretty much see if they respect my rights and my freedoms to film in there," Roth said in an interview Friday. "It’s fully legal, 100 percent legal, there’s nothing wrong with it. But what they don’t understand is we have the rights as the people to go in there and just film and just document public officials."
Roth said he's been taking similar videos in many other municipalities for about four years, and said about 70 percent of the time his trips and videotaping result in confrontation with law enforcement, officials or employees. He said he chose Enid for no particular reason and didn't have any problems with the area's law enforcement prior to the videos.
Now, Roth said he wants to see the "aggressive" deputy either go through re-training or be fired. A similar YouTuber under the channel name "News Now OKC" traveled to Enid Friday afternoon and live-streamed a trip through the county courthouse and later the sheriff's office, where a short interview was conducted with Jody Helm, acting sheriff.
"They’ve realized that they messed up and they’ve taken the necessary steps to remove the problem, which was (the deputy) ... and now we're free to go in there, they don’t do anything ... so they’ve corrected their issue," Roth said.
Helm told the Enid News & Eagle Friday the incident is under further investigation, but that the Garfield County Sheriff's Office is looking to provide more training for its staff.
"We will be conducting further training, department-wide, so we can better," Helm said. "We're always looking to better ourselves with better knowledge, andall that to make us a better department for the public and anybody else that visits the courthouse."
Roth said he's had numerous encounters with public officials and employees who are "misinformed or misguided" about the law, what he does is basically a test and that he and people like him aren't "cop baiters." He added there's no difference between security cameras filming people in a public building and him bringing his own camera in to film.
On Friday, Roth uploaded a new video of himself filming employees and walking around the Major County Courthouse in Fairview. During part of that video, a county employee asked Roth if he was in Alva not long ago, and Roth said he didn't know where Alva was and that he was from Florida. Roth's YouTube channel shows a video taken in Alva three months ago.
YouTube channels News Now Patrick and News Now OKC have other Garfield County videos from this week, along with hundreds of other videos of similar encounters with other law enforcement agencies and public buildings in several states.
"It’s more or less I go into these buildings and I just see if they’re informed, how are they going to treat me. … I don’t control them. If they want to say something retarded, they can do that, but they control theirself. They control what they say and what they do. So there is not necessarily a baiting issue, they do what they want to do," Roth said. "In all reality, I go in there, I don’t yell at people I don’t cuss at people and I simply just film. And they just freak out, it’s just ridiculous. I don’t understand how a camera upsets people so bad."
The video of the Garfield County Courthouse incident can be found at www.enidnews.com.