Former police chief ‘disgusted’ by video of reporter arrest

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (NewsNation) — A former police chief says he’s “disgusted” by the bodycam video showing the arrest of a NewsNation reporter.

“It is infuriating as a veteran law enforcement officer, even though I’m retired, to see a power trip like that. It’s reprehensible to think that the people that we entrust with not only our country’s security, but that city’s security, that they would just trample over the First Amendment rights of a reporter simply doing his job,” former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said on “On Balance with Leland Vittert.”

Authorities arrested Evan Lambert after he delivered a live news report Wednesday in East Palestine, Ohio, about a train derailment. Law enforcement told him to stop because Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine started a news conference inside the school gym where Lambert was giving his report.

Once Lambert wrapped up his report, conflict unfolded between Lambert and what appears to be a member of the National Guard. Officers approached the situation and tried to kick Lambert out of the news conference, but Lambert insisted he was trying to listen to the governor.

From there, sheriff’s deputies tried forcibly removing Lambert from the news conference before they tackled him to the ground in a foyer and arrested him.

Godbee believes the interaction speaks to the culture of law enforcement in the U.S. He said smaller law enforcement agencies may get away with more than larger departments due to the scrutiny major metropolitan departments face.

“It happens to everyone when there are people that are on power trips and the culture undergirds that. Even with cameras rolling, to have the audacity to write a narrative that does not exist, it just shows you that there are people that believe that they are above the law, and that their uniform, their badge, gives them license to just do anything,” Godbee said.

Law enforcement agencies claim Lambert was disruptive, ignored requests to leave the gym and resisted arrest. The member of the National Guard involved told investigators he was “convinced he (Lambert) was prepared to do harm to me,” and reacted by pushing Lambert, according to a statement to police.

“These are people that should not wear a uniform, nor should they have authority, if they don’t have the temperament to understand that this is an ally and a partner in getting that information out to the public so people can be safe,” Godbee said.

NewsNation President of News Michael Corn responded to the National Guard member’s claims by saying that Lambert was simply doing his job and that the many videos from the incident “speak for themselves.”

Jesse Weber, a legal analyst for the Law&Crime Network, agreed. He also thinks the video could be used by both prosecutors and defense, if it gets there.

“I can take this video from a prosecutor’s point of the view and use it to my advantage, and I can use it as my advantage to defense, because my defense would he had a right to be there. He was trying to talk calmly,” he said.

Weber continued: “They’re the ones who started the physical contact. They weren’t listening to him and he wasn’t trying to get away. That would be my take if I was representing Evan. This is a video that I think that can be used both by prosecutors and defense, even if it gets there.”

Lambert was escorted out of the gym Wednesday in handcuffs and taken to the Columbiana County Jail, where he was released a few hours later.

“Let me just say that, too, I would be surprised if these charges aren’t dropped given a lot of different considerations of factors here. But having seen the video and having seen the statements put out by officers, could prosecutors move forward, sure? Again, I don’t know if a court or jury would agree with them though,” Weber said.

Meanwhile, Godbee said he hopes law enforcement and the military take a closer look at the body camera footage and the actions of those involved.

Lambert is charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, charges his attorney described as a “futile attempt by law enforcement to justify their inexcusable interference with Mr. Lambert performing his duties as a journalist.”

DeWine told NewsNation that Lambert had “every right to broadcast” and that he does not want to “see him prosecuted.” At the time of this report, the governor had not formally called for the charges against Lambert to be dropped.

Find full statements from authorities, NewsNation and Lambert’s attorney at this link.

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