‘First Amendment Auditor’ films arrest at local library

Natchitoches Police officers responded to the Natchitoches Parish Library on Jan. 22 in response to a call from concerned library staff reporting a patron who was behaving bizarrely. This involved carrying multiple bulky bags into the building, setting up multiple cameras for recording purposes, trying to access areas restricted to the public, and pulling on door handles to areas that are off limits.

When officers made contact with the suspect he refused to give any information or provide them with an ID. Later identified as Travis Heinze, the suspect was taken into custody for resisting arrest and brought to the corrections center where he bonded out.

Heinze stated that he was just using the library and looked around the building since he’d never been to it before. When asked for identification he responded, “What does that have to do with anything,” and “How are you going to go above my constitutional protections on this because there is no crime?”

So who is Travis Heinze? He’s a “First Amendment Auditor” or “Police Auditor” from Aberdeen, Wash. What’s an auditor? These are individuals who film encounters with law enforcement officers/public officials. If an actual/perceived violation of the auditor’s protected rights occurs, the video will likely be posted on social media and/or serve as the basis for a claim or suit.

According to cirsa.org, one Colorado municipality recently agreed to pay a “First Amendment Auditor” $41,000 to settle a wrongful detention claim.

Heinze’s claim is that he was arrested illegally for not giving his name, but according to LRS 14: 108, resisting arrest is the refusal by the arrested or detained party to give his name and make his identity known to the arresting or detaining officer or providing false information regarding the identity of such party to the officer.

One of Heinze’s many internet followers commented, “Failure to I.D. is a secondary charge, these guys don’t have a primary charge of a crime committed.”

According to the NPD, Heinze was legally detained because of the reports regarding his suspicious behavior in the library and his refusal to provide identification. Under Louisiana law this gave officers probable cause for making the arrest.

What about those cameras Heinz set up in the library? From three different angles he filmed officers arriving in the library’s parking lot, his conversation with them inside, and his arrest. He publishes videos like these to his YouTube page for his followers. He also posted his “Top 10 Complaints Against My Arresting Officers in Natchitoches, La.” on Twitter with a link to his blog on a wordpress site.

On his Twitter profile, Heinze describes himself as “a homeless bum who lives out of my car, travels, offers health advice and shares anything on my mind.”

Following the posting of the Natchitoches videos, the library and police station began receiving an onslaught of calls from Henize’s first amendment audit peers/followers voicing their concern/disdain over the arrest and the fact that the library called the police on him in the first place. These same people have also taken to Facebook, flooding comment sections on the library and police department pages with links to the YouTube videos and comments along the lines of:

Don’t go to this place unless you want to get arrested. These horrible people are bigoted against folks using their facility stay away its for your own good. we need to close this place down. #TravisHeinze #ExchangeIDs

As he documents his travels across the country on his YouTube page “Life in a Car with Travis Heinze,” he documents his encounters with law enforcement along the way on his “Lets Exchange IDs with Travis Heinze” account, which dates back to 2017. These videos sport titles like:

“Reading and proofreading my lawsuit against Williston, ND”
“Officer Harris arrests me at city hall in Bethany, Missouri”
“Deputy Mortensen was called twice on me in Pembina, North Dakota”
“Comments about arrest in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho; showing a picture ID is the law?”

The City of Bethany, Mo. released a statement on Nov. 4, 2021 reporting charges were dismissed against Heinz, who entered the City Hall on Nov. 2 and began making repeated inquiries with the staff regarding parking regulations and parking availability. City Hall Staff members attempted to answer questions, but soon became uncomfortable and called police as a security measure. Heinze refused to identify himself when questioned by officers. He was placed under a 24-hour investigative hold at the Harrison County Detention Center. He was charged with Disturbing the Peace and Second-Degree Harassment by the Harrison County Prosecutor.

The bottom line is that there’s two sides to every story, so are these auditors “professional agitators” or are they performing a service for the American people?