Reporter arrested during news event on Ohio train derailment

Feb 8, 2023, 6:21 AM | Updated: Feb 9, 2023, 9:38 pm
This image taken from video provided by Newsnation/TMX shows reporter Evan Lambert being taken into...

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)

(Newsnation TMX via AP)

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A reporter was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and arrested for trespassing while covering a news conference about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in Ohio.

NewsNation posted video of correspondent Evan Lambert 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.

“I’m doing fine right now. It’s been an extremely long day,” Lambert said after his release. “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.”

At the end of his news conference, DeWine said he didn’t authorize the arrest and reporters have “every right” to report during briefings.

“If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong,” DeWine said.

A following statement from the governor’s office said DeWine didn’t see the incident because a bank of cameras blocked his view but he did hear a “disagreement toward the back of the gymnasium.”

DeWine “has always respected the media’s right to report live before, during, and after his press briefings” the statement said.

Mike Viqueira, NewsNation’s Washington Bureau chief, called the arrest an infuriating violation of the First Amendment.

The Washington, D.C.-based Lambert could still face charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, NewsNation said.

The Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office administration said the arrest was made by officers from the East Palestine Police Department. A message seeking comment from the department was not immediately returned.

About 50 train cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night on the edge of East Palestine. Federal investigators say a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.

Nearby residents in Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania were ordered to evacuate when authorities decided on Monday to release and burn chemicals from five tankers filled with vinyl chloride, sending hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air.

At the news conference, authorities said sampling had shown air quality in the area was safe and residents could return home, although DeWine said some residents may want to wait until the air inside their homes is checked.

The news conference started more than two hours late and DeWine started speaking at the same instant Lambert had to do a live broadcast from the back of the gym, Preston Swigart, a photographer who was with Lambert, told NewsNation.

Swigart said police officers approached Lambert and asked him to stop talking. Lambert finished the live report but was then asked to leave by authorities, who tried to forcibly remove him from the event, NewsNation reported.

“From their standpoint, he didn’t obey orders,” Swigart said. “Gymnasiums are echoey and loud and sound kind of carries, so I’m guessing that they just didn’t like the fact that there was sound competing with the governor speaking, even though it was all the way at the other end of the room.”

The anchor handling the report said she heard the reporter saying, “The governor has just started speaking. I’m being told that I have to quit my report” before it was cut short.

Video captured by NewsNation affiliate WKBN-TV showed Lambert on his face on the ground being handcuffed. He was then taken outside and placed in the back of a sheriff’s patrol car.

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Reporter arrested during news event on Ohio train derailment