An astrophotographer in Ireland recently caused a strange scare: he was mistaken for a “sniper,” and it resulted in an armed police manhunt.
The night sky photographer was setting up his camera and tripod on a beach at south Kerry bay on March 18th at around 6:30 p.m. when a passerby on the dunes spotted him.
The walker thought the photographer was carrying a rifle around on the beach, so they called the national police force (known as the Gardaí) and reported that a dangerous “sniper” was roaming the area.
Authorities reacted to the alarming report with a dramatic response: armed police offers immediately rushed to the scene, set up roadblocks, and began searching the area for the gunman.
“One local told The Kerryman that the situation steadily ‘got more and more bizarre’ and that at one point Gardaí had entered a pub in the village seeking to borrow a set of binoculars,” Independent.ie reports. “The bar’s staff and patrons were unable to assist but a villager quickly came to the guards’ aid, providing them with a set of field glasses to help in their search.”
In the meantime, the innocent photographer was peacefully shooting the star photos that he had set out to capture, unaware that he was at the center of a manhunt.
When he was finally located, the police realized that there wasn’t actually a danger to the public and the security alert was canceled.
The photographer was lucky that the police decided to investigate first before shooting: less than a year ago, a photojournalist in the US was shot twice by a sheriff who also mistook a tripod for a rifle. The sheriff’s lawyers are arguing that it was the photographer’s fault, and the sheriff was just spared of criminal charges.