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‘My rights have been trampled on:’ MU professor’s equipment seized while filming wolf poaching documentary

Joseph Brown

MILWAUKEE -- A Marquette University professor had $10,000 worth of equipment seized while filming a documentary in northern Wisconsin.

"These are my First Amendment rights. These are also my rights as a professional documentary filmmaker that have been trampled on," Joseph Brown, assistant professor of digital media with the Diederich College of Communication at MU said.

In January, Brown was embedded with the "Wolf Patrol," an activist group, in Forest County, Wisconsin -- documenting hunting activities when tensions started to rise.

"This is something the hunters don't like. Not everybody likes to have cameras pointed at them," Brown said.

Wolves are listed as an Endangered Species, and are illegal to hunt in Wisconsin. Still, Brown says Forest County is an area with a history of wolf poaching, the topic of his documentary -- "Operation Wolf Patrol." Soon, hunters confronted him.

Rod Coronado

"It was not the first time we've had aggression directed toward us, but what was different with this instance was that we were physically detained. It was essentially a mob," Rod Coronado, director of the Wolf Patrol said.

At one point, Brown said one of the hunters pushed Coronado with his truck.

"It was maybe a two- or three-foot push, but ultimately, that type of thing in my mind is really scary because if there's a mistake, an accident, you're dealing with human life here," Brown said.

Forest County sheriff's deputies arrived.

Rod Coronado

"I said 'I will go to the police station right now with you and I will give you copies of all the footage so you have evidence of what happened,'" Brown said.

Instead, officers seized his cameras. Brown said he tried to resist, but didn't want to get arrested.

"I was not explained any part of the process, and that's the part that is most concerning to me," Brown said.

Brown said the hunters likely felt he was filming illegally, as there are laws in Wisconsin protecting lawful hunters from being photographed. It's undetermined at this point whether the hunters who confronted Brown were poaching or hunting legally.

Joseph Brown

More than two weeks after the incident, Brown and Coronado drove about three-and-a-half hours to Forest County Monday, Feb. 12 with the hope of getting their cameras back. After speaking with them Monday afternoon, they tell us that they successfully retrieved their equipment from the police department; however, police officers kept their memory cards and the footage on them.

FOX6 News reached out to the Forest County Sheriff's Office for comment on this case. We are still waiting for a response.