Last night, just as the sun sneaked behind the horizon, Stephen Masker was at the Cityplace trolley turntable in Uptown with a friend, doing what he's usually doing: shooting photos. Masker, 23, graduated from UNT last year, and has been busy building a little freelance career, shooting photos for the Observer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and other outlets. (He happens to have just shot a photo of the Uptown Station for Unfair Park last week.)
"I remember seeing this van from the corner of my eye," Masker says. Then the van suddenly was upon him, the door sliding open. A man, Hispanic, wearing a black T-shirt and a black bandana over his face, pointed a gun sideways at Masker, he recalls.
"Give me the camera!"
"What?" Masker replied, confused by the man's request.
"Give me the fucking camera," the man repeated, and cocked his pistol.
"I can't," Masker says. "I'm not going to give you my camera."
There were at least three men in the van, Masker says, including the driver. It was at this point that another passenger, a man in a green polo shirt, apparently got frustrated with the pace of the proceedings. He grabbed his accomplice's gun and emerged from the van, walking toward Masker and demanding the camera.
It was almost 9 p.m.; only a few strands of daylight were hanging in the sky. A security guard was patrolling a nearby parking lot, but there weren't really people around. But this equipment is Masker's life, he says, the $3,600 worth of inventory he needs to keep his fledgling business afloat.
So he just kept backing up and saying no.
"It's what I do. It's what I love to do. I didn't want to give away my camera," he says. "The idea of giving it up never crossed my mind."
After realizing Masker's stubbornness, the man jumped back into the van and sped off, jumping onto Highway 75. Masker cried out for the security guard, who called the police. There were 12 or 13 squad cars on top of him in a matter of minutes, Masker says. (I'm trying to track down the police report.)
Masker expects to hear from a detective soon, and hopes one of the security cameras in the area caught a glimpse of his would-be robbers. After the incident he went home to Flower Mound, where he lives with his parents. He considered not telling his mom, but eventually did. She, needless to say, was not thrilled with his act of bravery. Looking back, neither is he.
"It was stupid in hindsight," he says. "I just wasn't thinking clearly."
Then again, he says, he can't imagine trying to replace that equipment. (He doesn't have insurance.)
"It wouldn't be easy," he says. "It would take a long time. That's how I make money. If that's gone, how am I going to be a photographer?