People reported seeing a man and woman traveling through McDowell County this week, snapping photographs as they drove through each town. And those people wanted to know why.WVVA added the first person account of one of the photographers, Marisha Camp, to their online story:
"I received a call that there was a suspicious vehicle, a light brown Volvo station wagon, Massachusetts plate, and there was a male and female in the Raysal area taking pictures of some children," says Chief Deputy, Roger Deel.
Jennifer Adkins, the mother of three kids, and a resident of Raysal, is the one who contacted Chief Deputy Deel. She also confronted the photographers, with a group of others.
Audio recording captured the encounter.You hear a McDowell resident say, "And there are no pictures of any children on there?”
“No. And you can check it, not of your kids. I can show you. Jesus Christ. We didn't stop and approach like, yeah; you guys are making us out to be like crazy pedophiles. You guys are making us out to be people that we are not,” says Marisha and Jesse Camp “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? You all don't look like upstanding citizens," says Jennifer Adkins.
My brother and I are currently on the last leg of a cross country road trip that began in California and has encompassed a number of states and communities. We love to document our travels and people we meet along the way. As a result, we were traveling through McDowell County yesterday (3/23) with cameras, telltale "you're not from around here" accents, and out of state plates. I'm not naive in regards to insular cultures and an attendant inability to understand outsiders, but a "misunderstanding" does not, CANNOT justify being held hostage and having one's life threatened. While I was happy to escape physically unscathed, I find it much harder to overcome the fear, the inescapable sense of vulnerability... the trauma of yesterday.Deliverance meets the X-files.
While traveling between Bradshaw and War, where we had planned to attend a church revival, we drove through a residential area that may have encompassed most or all of the town of Raysal. We were in this area for a few minutes, where I captured some imagery of houses and the surrounding landscape from the road. We then traveled quite some ways down the road and stopped at a gas station, where we crossed the street and interviewed and took posed portraits of several young adults.
Someone was screaming from the parking lot of the gas station, and I turned around to find a middle aged man and woman beckoning to us. Their minivan was parked right behind our car, effectively parking us in, as it were, but at the time I thought that maybe they'd accidentally bumped into our car. I began to cross the parking lot, still not entirely able to make out what they were saying, and then... Convinced that we had taken photographs of their teenaged sons, this couple had tracked us down and they were not leaving without our camera. I refused to hand it over. At this point, the woman opened the door of the minivan, pointed to a backseat, said that she had her gun right there, and we were not leaving until the police arrived. A hostile mob was beginning to gather, spurred by phone calls and the couple's loud insistence that they were just trying to protect "the kids" without having actually witnessed a crime or presented any tangible evidence of actual wrongdoing.
I spent the next forty minutes crying, shaking, and begging in every way possible for everyone to calm down. With no cell phone reception, and under threat of being beaten or shot if I tried to go into the store and use a landline, I nervously sent text after text, silently praying that somehow, against all odds, something would go through so my mother would know where I was and wouldn't spend weeks not knowing what had happened to her children.
It's important to note that photographing from a public place is not illegal, so we were being held hostage for 1. something that isn't a crime in the first place and 2. something that we had not, in fact, done.
An especially violent man with a kerchief on his head joined the mob early on, "You don't live around here. You don't need to take a picture of even a G-d damned rock. Y'all get in whatever the f-ck you're ridin..."
Wife: "No, they're not leaving until I see that camera and I see if it's got my kid's pictures on it."
Husband: "They've got pictures of our kids, they might have pictures of your kids."
Kerchief: "The man said you're not leaving. You're not leaving."
I showed the husband all of the images on both of my cameras, and while he was able to ascertain that we did not have any photos of his children, this wasn't enough, "I mean there's a five year old child in Pulaski that's been missing for two weeks." Now I felt like we'd truly passed a point of no return, that we could be accused of anything and everything and the mob was free to determine our "punishment." Everything was fair game because, to quote the wife, "Have y'all looked in the mirror? You don't look like upstanding citizens." The man in the kerchief continued to menace us, "Tell you what, you know what someone should do? Take all your f-cking cameras and beat 'em in the f-cking ground... This ain't no place to get loud. Shut up, Squeaky. I can beat you into the f-cking ground."
I was overjoyed when a state trooper finally arrived. Here was salvation. Except I'm now approaching this man with tears streaming down my face, "sir, we really need your help," and all he can say is "Have you been drinking?" As we were separated from the mob at this point, I don't know what they said to justify having held us captive for so long, but the resolution in the end was our being escorted out of the area. At no point were we given the opportunity to discuss being held hostage. In fact, we were left with a lecture about not making mean videos about the good people of West Virginia, which, while distasteful and at odds with everything we believe in, also isn't illegal.