KnoxZine
KnoxZine

Photos by: John Messner

Article by: Debra Dylan

“When I was sixteen, a man taught me black and white photography, and I started working at a newspaper. That was over thirty years ago,” says John Messner.

Today he works full time renovating rental houses. “I consider my photography a hobby. I always keep my camera with me, and I listen to the police scanner whenever I can.”

Last year his hobby led him to a scene he could not have anticipated. “I just went up there [Fort Sanders neighborhood] to take pictures of kids [at a party] getting arrested and put into the paddy wagon. I was up on some steps near the paddy wagon. I took a total of 350 photos,” he says.

One of those photos went viral. Messner was in the right place at the right time when a Sheriff’s deputy began using a compression hold on a young man’s neck. Messner says, “He was squeezing the boy’s carotid arteries until the boy’s legs gave in. I was scared. I thought he was going to die.” Messner made a time lapse video of sixty photos relating to this incident.

UT disturbance, Deputy chokes college student

He says, “I never went out that night with the intention of photographing a Deputy choking [Jarod] Dotson. I don’t get great pleasure being the one who captured it. I wish it never happened, but it did. What kind of person would I be if I saw Dotson abused like that and remained silent?”

Almost 10,000 people follow Messner’s Knoxville Crime Facebook page, but he does have his detractors. “The families of the victims are the most sensitive. I don’t show the face on a dead body. I took photos yesterday of a guy that was shot and was lying behind a house.

“People will notify the victim’s family that their relative’s photo is on my Facebook page. They will go to the page and then ask me to take the picture down. I’m not taking it down. We have a right to see it. It was more than just your relative who got shot. They were attempting to rob drug dealers, and that neighborhood was terrorized by all the shots fired. They threatened to kill people,” he explains.

“You never know what you are going to get when you get out there,” he says. “I’m desensitized to what I see. I’m more worried about my photography and I try to stay focused. The funny thing is I take pictures, but when I get home and look at the photos, I have things I didn’t know I had.”

His portrait and action scenes are not deliberately artistic. “I thought the photo of the Linden Avenue fire (below) looked like a painting, but I didn’t see it that way as it was happening.”

 CRIME & STREET PHOTOGRAPHY AS ART

(click on photos to enlarge)

Witnesses at a Cumberland Avenue nightclub shooting.

Distraught woman on Cherry Street.

Woman’s husband shot and killed a motorcyclist in road rage incident.

Broadway fatality.

“A car owner shoots the man breaking into his car. The man runs and is found an hour later. He is still alive but dies at the hospital. The car owner is not charged.” – John Messner

Officers react to news that a police officer was shot at Walter P. Taylor Homes.

A suspect under arrest cries behind the victim in a body bag. Town View Terrace Apartments.

“Mr. Underwood calls police in a panic saying someone is breaking into his house and he’s getting his gun. When police arrive they find forced entry to the front door and a female on the porch. Mr. Underwood was injured before police arrived, but was detained as he became combative and argumentative with arriving police.” – John Messner

“This tire and what is left of the rim was found on Old Broadway in Louis restaurant parking lot. The wreck scene is to my right, up on the interstate. My guess is about at least two football fields so that would make it over 600 feet away this tire came to rest. I can only see the very top of the truck laying on the interstate from where I was standing. Two tires were ripped from the car and the tractor trailer was also missing both its front tires.”- John Messner

“Knoxville Fire Fighters put out a fire on Depot Avenue at Knoxville Belt. The building was destroyed.” – John Messner

North Hills fatal fire.

Linden Avenue  fire.

“Sometimes you see the oddest things…at a house fire on Adair Avenue. She is rescuing her pets from the smoke filled house.” – John Messner

“Police and investigators gather at the corner of Dale Avenue and Blackstock Avenue where a dead body was found in a patch of wildflowers.” – John Messner

“This person was found unconscious in the Broadway Shopping Center at lunch time.” – John Messner

Burglary in progress on Emorilland Blvd.

“That guy fled from Florida, robbed a store in North Carolina, and ended up at a motel on East Magnolia Avenue, where he shot a cop in the chest. The Officer was wearing a vest that stopped the bullet. After brief standoff, the guy surrendered.” – John Messner

“Two males were chased from a roofing company after stealing shingles for the second night in a row. Police caught one suspect and the other is still on the run.” – John Messner

These photos may not be downloaded or used without John Messner’s permission. 

© Knoxzine, 2015 (text only).

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