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Police: Reporter pushed down, arrested had refused to leave

February 9, 2023 GMT
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This image taken from video provided by Newsnation/TMX shows reporter Evan Lambert being taken into police custody on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio. NewsNation posted video of their correspondent being arrested Wednesday in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine where Gov. Mike DeWine was giving an update about the accident. Lambert was held for about five hours before being released from jail, NewsNation reported.(Newsnation TMX via AP)
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This image taken from video provided by Newsnation/TMX shows reporter Evan Lambert being taken into police custody on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio. NewsNation posted video of their correspondent being arrested Wednesday in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine where Gov. Mike DeWine was giving an update about the accident. Lambert was held for about five hours before being released from jail, NewsNation reported.(Newsnation TMX via AP)

The arrest of a broadcast reporter who was pushed to the ground and handcuffed while covering a news conference came after he got into an argument with the head of the Ohio National Guard and refused to leave, police said Thursday.

NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert was arrested Wednesday at an elementary school in East Palestine where Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was giving an update about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals. Video of the arrest that followed Lambert’s live broadcast during the event showed the cable news reporter facedown on the ground being handcuffed.

Lambert was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors. He spent about five hours in jail before being released on a $750 bond, according to court records.

“No journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that that doesn’t happen in our country,” Lambert said after his release.

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East Palestine Police Chief J.C. Brown said in a statement that Lambert was talking loudly while on the air from the back of the gym at the same time DeWine was speaking.

Two Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers and Maj. Gen. John Harris Jr., commander of the Ohio National Guard, told Lambert to stop the broadcast, Brown said.

Harris and Lambert then got into an argument and Harris told officers the reporter was coming at him in an aggressive manner and he felt threatened so he pushed Lambert away, the police chief said.

“I instinctively put my hands on his chest to keep him from bumping into me, which I felt was inevitable if I had not protected myself,” Harris said in a statement made to investigators and provided by his office.

Harris said he removed his hands after less than a second and walked away after Lambert yelled that he had been assaulted, the statement said.

Lambert was then told he needed to leave the news conference but refused several times, Brown said. The reporter was told he was being arrested and attempted to pull away while being removed from the building, Brown said.

East Palestine detective Daniel Haueter and Columbiana County Chief Deputy Jennifer Tucker forced Lambert to the ground and handcuffed him, Brown said.

Harris declined to comment beyond his statements to police, said Capt. Jenna Walton, public affairs officer for the National Guard. Message seeking comment were left with the county sheriff and the state patrol.

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A message also was left with Lambert’s attorney.

DeWine said he did not authorize the arrest or even see the disagreement, adding that reporters have “every right” to report during briefings.

He told NewsNation in an interview Thursday he did not want to see Lambert jailed or prosecuted, but he stopped short of saying the charges should be dropped.

“We would like to see this whole thing go away,” he said. “What I don’t know, again, is all the facts.”

Michael Corn, president of news for NewsNation, said Lambert was just doing his job.

“The many videos of this incident taken by bystanders speak for themselves,” he said. “We will let people draw their own conclusions about how this incident was handled by the officers involved.”

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Mike Viqueira, NewsNation’s Washington Bureau chief, said Lambert handled the situation with professionalism.

The Society of Professional Journalists said police should drop the charges and apologize, saying reporters should be able to keep the public informed without interference from law enforcement.