Often when suspects are placed in the back of a law enforcement vehicle instead of taken immediately to the appropriate agency or the jail, they will just sit in the car while arresting officers fill out paperwork or do some additional investigation of the scene.
When news photographers show up, the suspects often do their best to shield themselves from view. Sometimes they’ll raise their hands in front of their faces or turn their heads away, but more often they’ll duck partially or completely below the door line. This works for a while, but curiosity usually get the best of them. No matter how well hidden they are, they’ll at least take a peek or two to see if the photographers are still there. The trick is being ready for it when it happens.
I covered the multi-agency bust of a smash-and-grab theft ring at a house in Stockton. Five people were accused of using a car to crash through doors and windows of businesses where the suspects grabbed inventory and fled in the car.
When I arrived, there wasn’t much to shoot. All of the stolen goods had already been hauled away, as were four of the five suspects. California Highway Patrol Officer Angel Arceo identified a woman sitting in the back of a CHP patrol car as the last suspect. With a long lens, I trained my camera on her. She was partially turned away, and her face was mostly in shadow. When she caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of her eye, she quickly turned away even farther, leaving nothing but the back of her head for me to shoot.
But she didn’t retreat to the deeper shadows of the back seat, so I kept my lens trained on her and waited. Finally, she turned to look, half of her face hidden below the door, but at least I got a partial shot that showed her eyes. If push came to shove it would have to do but I waited for a clearer shot.
A few minutes later another CHP officer opened the door and took her out of the car. He grasped a handcuffed wrist and began to search her pockets. For the few minutes while the search was going on and until he put her back in the car, I got several clear shots of the suspect out in the open. I expected her to duck back down below the door line again, but she didn’t, remaining in plain sight. I guess she knew the jig was up both in terms of the long arm of the law and photographically.