A self-described YouTube “auditor” and his supporters plan on challenging a Killeen city ordinance they say is trumped by state law and violates First Amendment rights at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

YouTube content creator Kevin Duane Butler, 38, also known as “No Question Abaudit” and “The Public,” was arrested Dec. 18 while filming a police interaction in north Killeen.

Butler considers himself part of a growing movement of “First Amendment auditors” who routinely videotape police interactions with the public in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota on May 25, 2020.

Darnella Frazier, 17 at the time, recorded Floyd’s last 10 minutes alive, while he was handcuffed and in police custody, struggling to breathe as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck.

In April, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd.

The video, which went viral worldwide and almost immediately sparked national outrage, earned Frazier a 2021 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, according to a June tweet from the organization.

Neither Killeen police nor Butler willingly released Butler’s name following his arrest; however, the Herald obtained it through an open records request with the city for the arrest report. It showed his name, age and the charge he is accused of — interfering with duties of a police officer — which is a misdemeanor under Killeen city law. Also in the report was Butler’s home address, which was listed as Phoenix, Arizona, although Butler has indicated he has been in Killeen for months and may be staying longer. The Herald also requested Butler’s jail booking photo, but the city refused on the grounds that the case is still “pending.”

Arrest

In the YouTube video of Butler’s arrest, viewers can see the videographer approaching and recording two police officers as they talk to passengers in a parked sedan. To view the video visit https://bit.ly/3ehobqd.

As one KPD officer appears to be talking to people inside the vehicle, Butler is heard saying, “If you’re a passenger you don’t have to identify,” at which point a second officer turns to the videographer, shines his light at his camera, and says “You are now breaking the law; you are interfering with a traffic stop.”

The YouTuber was arrested for violating Sec. 16-107, Interfering with or Obstructing an Officer, of the city of Killeen’s Code of Ordinances — a class C misdemeanor.

“While conducting their investigation, they (police officers) were approached by an individual who interjected himself into the investigation by engaging with other individuals in the vehicle, distracting the officers, and creating a safety hazard for all involved parties,” KPD Chief Charles Kimble said in a social media post about the matter.

Just before Christmas, Kimble said the department is conducting an internal investigation regarding the videographer’s arrest.

“The Killeen Police Department Code of Conduct requires our officers to preserve and protect the individual rights and freedoms of citizens,” Kimble said. “Due to the public interest in this incident, we will be conducting an investigation into the matter.”

KPD did not immediately respond to the Herald’s request for an update about the investigation Friday.

A copy of Butler’s KPD incident report offered minimal details about the arrest.

“On 12-18-21 at approximately 1:12 a.m., Officers were conducting a traffic stop at the intersection of 10th St. and Brewster Ave. While conducting a traffic investigation, a pedestrian approached their location and interfered with the official duties of a police officer.”

Butler stands by his innocence and that he was unlawfully arrested, often referring to his arrest as a “kidnapping” in his videos.

“Ain’t nothing I’m doing illegal,” Butler said in a recent video of him roller blading outside KPD headquarters. “I can berate they a** all day if I want to. At the end of the day, they kidnapped me, so you think I’m gonna be happy about that s***? Think I’m going to roll over?”

But some critics question whether Butler’s tactics are effective.

“If the objective of this video was to show how incredibly ignorant these “activists” are, then they were successful,” James Plank, assistant professor of criminal justice at Texas A&M University in Kingsville said about Butler’s arrest video in a Facebook comment on the Herald’s page.

In a letter to the editor in the Dec. 26 edition of the Herald, Larry Letzer, of Copperas Cove, opined that some auditors are only in it for the “clicks.”

“I believe in lawful photography, but the moment the ‘journalist’ involves themselves in the police activity, this causes the police to divert their attention, putting them and the person detained at risk,” Letzer wrote. “... A large majority of these First Amendment auditors are not respectful. To the contrary, they interject themselves in the police activity and do what they can to provoke a response to fund their YouTube clicks.”

Who are auditors?

Butler is one of many in the growing YouTube subgenre of “First Amendment auditors,” many of whom are self-described “citizen journalists.” For many, the point is to take video of a public facility or an interaction between public officials and the general public.

If an official overreacts or threatens the “auditor,” then they fail. If the “audit” goes without incident, then they pass.

“Auditing” in the modern YouTube sense refers to the practice of acting as an observer for public areas, and usually the auditor is armed with a recording device, and posts the video to social media for all to see.

A report from the Washington Post regarding the 2019 shooting of Zhoie Perez tracks the practice back about 15 years, describing members of the movement as individuals testing their constitutional rights by standing in a public place, such as a park or post office, and recording the almost inevitable subsequent encounter with police.

Supporters of the movement describe it as a citizen check on the powers that be, providing accountability — even the Herald was audited by Butler a few months ago.

However, critics describe the movement as dangerous and intentionally disruptive. Some auditors have been accused of stoking confrontation in order to get more revenue in the way of video views and Gofundme pages.

When asked if Butler received funding from his videos, he told the Herald he would rather not say.

According to a report this year from Business Insider, YouTube creators must have at least “1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past year,” before they start receiving money directly from YouTube.

Council Members Respond

The Herald reached out to the City Council for a comment on the activist. As of Friday, Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King, Councilman Ken Wilkerson and Councilwoman Jessica Gonzalez had responded.

“I don’t know this young man. However, if he truly wants to see an ordinance changed or removed, he can simply contact any elected city representatives to help him achieve his goal. While I welcome proactive engagement with residents to ensure our city is governed in alignment with Constitutional Rights, Civil Rights, and Texas State laws, I believe there are more productive ways of achieving that type of change,” Wilkerson said.

Nash-King said City Hall and the community room located at the police station are open to the public.

“I welcome any resident to come to the city council meetings to share their thoughts and concerns on any topic because we are a city of diversity,” she said.

Gonzalez said she was unable to speak about the ongoing investigation, but did offer this: “As it relates to the Council my position is that I welcome the citizens feedback, and if there is an ordinance, provision, or general suggestion made and our leadership can look into it and be an effective part of positive change, well I know I would be happy to look into and to help where we can. ... We should not be reactive but use this opportunity to make sure we are proactive in our approach for all involved.”

BUTLER

A conflict over a city ordinance is at the heart of the matter.

Butler said Killeen’s city code ordinance goes against a similar state law that specifies speech alone is not considered interfering with or obstructing an officer.

Killeen City Ordinance 16-107 is scheduled to be discussed during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, thanks to a citizen petition from James Everard, who is co-hosting a “Hold Killeen Police Accountable” event at 4 p.m. Jan. 8 in front of KPD headquarters with Butler.

When asked about his intentions for the city council meeting, Butler issued the following statement Thursday.

“OUR plans for the city council meeting would be to initiate a catalyst for change and to remind the city leadership that the blatantly unconstitutional ordinances that flood the city code books were put in place by the city attorney, council members and the mayor’s review, authorization and signatures,” Butler said. “These ordinances, policies, rules and procedures that litter the walls of government facilities, subjugate the people and contradicts the fabric of this country, the constitution. Rules are not law. No law shall be made that does not mirror the constitution as it infringes on the rights of innocent hard-working people.”

As he has stated in his YouTube videos, Butler says he intends to bring about change through his activism.

“I intend to initiate change to the status quo,” he said. “The leadership in this city has disconnected from the root of why they were put in office to begin with, which is to serve the city. Transparency, responsibility and professionalism is what we demand from leadership. Extortion and egregious rights violations by the very people we grant to lead the city have no place in today’s free society.”

ldodd@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

jdowling@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7552

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(10) comments

Kanyeeast

I googled James plank and he was an officer in Killeen.

You people are actually ignorant

dailymajor

The attention seeker says he is about transparency, responsibility, and professionalism, ...but he didn't want to give his name when he was arrested, he interjected himself into a police matter, and he craves the attention that he apparantly so badly needs by playing gotcha with the police?...He believes he knows more about the law and criminal justice than Plank? Really?....I can't believe the city council would pacify this guy with one minute of time with all of the problems, especially with crime, that this city has.

dailymajor

No question??..Why aren't you at least as concerned about the crime rat...It's.hard to believe the city council would give you a second of their time with all that is going on in Killeen...You need to find another way to get your apparent great need for attention..maybe like trying to stop the amount of crime we have in the city??

Noquestionabaudit

Seems like all the crime is being committed by the ones who were tasked with stopping it.

Noquestionabaudit

I suggest you do a bit more homework on what an 1st amendment audit is. As a journalist and mainstream media, one would think you would be better tuned into the current culture and climate of free press.

I am not a "YouTube auditor" as I stated numerous of times when speaking with you and throughout my videos yall so intently watch, I consider myself an advocate for accountability.

I could have given you a snapshot of my  booking photo, it was actually a good photo.

If I'm supposedly doing it for the "clicks" and everyone knows this, than those goons who kidnapped me are either dumb, egotistical or just didn't get the memo? Why would you include an "letter to the editor" excerpt from a guy named Larry who obviously knows zero about the law? If anyone is incredibly ignorant it is Larry lol.

Lauren introduces James Plank, an "assistant professor of criminal justice" to speak about my kidnapping as if he knows the law. Lauren should have asked James "Are you familiar with the 1st amendment?" James Plank, do you have a background in criminal justice or do you make coffee as the "assistant" to the actual professor with the criminal justice background? Again that points back to the shoddy journalism.  Next time try getting some real experts that actually know law and we can all have a round table discussion while watching the kidnapping video and you decide who is ignorant or not.

Localsince72

A. Lauren introduces James Plank, an "assistant professor of criminal justice" to speak

B. "James Plank, do you have a background in criminal justice"

C. you decide who is ignorant or not.

Noquestionabaudit

You obviously can't read. The key word is assistant

Education Reporter

So why are these self proclaimed “reporters” being so biased? Instead of researching on the topic they just want to throw in their feelings on the “story”

AnnaMaeBullock

One of the two reporters in this story doesn't even have a journalism degree or background and the other seems a bit green. There is your answer.

AnnaMaeBullock

One of the two reporters in this story doesn't even have a journalism degree or background and the other seems a bit green. There is your answer.

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