When photojournalist David Pardo refused to delete a photo he took of a stranger while on assignment in Hisperia Lake, near Los Angeles, two men punched him in the face and tossed his camera into the water. But apparently the two attackers, now facing felony charges for assault and vandalism, weren’t actually successful in destroying the photo. Thanks to social media and a local woman, Pardo’s 1,700 images were returned to him after spending two months under water.
Shelly Hirst was fishing on the lake Wednesday when she hooked Pardo’s Nikon. While the DSLR was destroyed, she saw that the images on the card were still intact, so she put a message out on Facebook hoping to find the camera’s owner. The same day, a friend told her about Pardo’s ordeal.
Thursday, Pardo finally got his images back.
Pardo was shooting images of families at the park on May 10 for a local newspaper’s summer guide feature. After he shot photos of a woman feeding the ducks, he approached her, introduced himself, and asked to print the images. The woman refused and then insisted that he delete the images of her. Pardo said he wouldn’t use the images, but that it was against company policy to delete the images.
The Daily Press photographer continued to shoot other families in the park when the woman returned with two men, who again insisted he delete the images. According to Pardo, one man punched him, which knocked him to the ground. The two then proceeded to kick Pardo, then one of them took the camera, stomped on it and tossed it into the lake.
When the two left, Pardo tried to take a photo of their license plate, but one of the men noticed, returned and tossed his phone into the lake too.
“This is the first time in my 42 years in the newspaper business that one of my employees has ever been assaulted,” Daily Press Editor Steve Hunt said. “This simply cannot be tolerated. David Pardo did nothing wrong. He was taking pictures in a public place and didn’t even have to ask the woman for permission to use the photos he took. He did so as a courtesy.”
Pardo later sought treatment at a local hospital but was released with minor injuries.