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NewsNation reporter was pushed by National Guard official during an argument before his arrest at an Ohio news conference, video shows


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By Sara Smart, Elizabeth Wolfe and Emma Tucker, CNN

Body camera footage from Wednesday’s arrest of a NewsNation correspondent shows the Ohio National Guard’s adjutant general pushing the reporter during an argument at a press conference that state authorities held about a train derailment.

The footage, released Thursday by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, reveals new details of a confrontation between NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert and law enforcement that led to his arrest after the reporter was told to stop delivering a live report during the governor’s remarks.

Lambert was arrested Wednesday evening by East Palestine, Ohio, police officers and detained in Columbiana County jail on preliminary charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest, county Sheriff Brian McLaughlin said.

The reporter was released later that night after posting bond, McLaughlin said. Lambert is scheduled to be arraigned on February 23, according to Columbiana County online court records.

During Wednesday’s news conference in an East Palestine school gymnasium, Lambert was told to stop broadcasting because he was delivering his report loudly while Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was speaking, East Palestine police said in a news release. At the event, officials were announcing they were lifting a multi-day evacuation order near the site of a fiery weekend train derailment in that eastern Ohio town.

The governor later said he did not ask that Lambert stop the broadcast, wasn’t aware of the arrest as it happened, and affirmed journalists’ right to report during the event.

The body camera footage, which begins with no audio, shows Ohio National Guard’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. John Harris, speaking to Lambert’s cameraman apparently while the reporter is delivering his live report. A state trooper then walks behind the camera and motions for Lambert to stop speaking.

After Lambert ends his report, he turns to Harris, the video shows. The camera’s view then pivots away from the pair for a few seconds, making what happened during that time unclear. When it turns back to Lambert and Harris, they appear to be arguing, but there still is no audio.

Harris then puts his hand on Lambert’s chest and pushes him, and the pair point at each other and appear to be speaking heatedly, the video shows. Police said Harris told them that he pushed Lambert because the reporter was coming towards him “in an aggressive manner” he was “feeling threatened,” the police release said.

A few seconds after the push, the footage’s audio begins as a trooper tries to get Harris to stop interacting with Lambert.

“I am allowed to be here,” Lambert says as a deputy grabs his arm and tries to direct him out of the gym, the footage shows.

“You were told to shut it down. You continued to argue,” says McLaughlin, who is among several law enforcement members who have begun to gather around. “Go, now, or you can go to jail.”

The sheriff and other officers repeatedly ask Lambert to leave the gym, while at least one person off-camera repeatedly asks if he could talk to Lambert outside, the footage shows.

Lambert says, “I’m going to listen (to the news conference) because it’s my job,” but the officers block him from walking toward it. A man who identifies himself as the building supervisor also asks Lambert to leave.

Two officers then grab Lambert by the arms, and drag him out of the gym into an entrance hall. In their statement, East Palestine police accused Lambert of trying to pull away from officers.

A struggle ensues in the hall as the officers push the reporter to the ground and handcuff him, the video shows. Lambert is then escorted to a patrol car.

CNN has sought comment from the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department but did not immediately hear back.

“We never want to lose sight of the fact that Evan (Lambert) was in Ohio to provide up-to-the-minute reporting about a tragic train accident that has impacted thousands of lives,” NewsNation Washington Bureau Chief Mike Viqueira said Thursday. “Evan handled this unfortunate situation with true professionalism, and we appreciate his commitment as a journalist whose goal is to report stories that are fair and unbiased.”

Videos ‘speak for themselves,’ NewsNation says

Michael Corn, the president of news at NewsNation, said in a Twitter statement Thursday that the “many videos of this incident taken by bystanders speak for themselves.”

“We will let people draw their own conclusions about how this incident was handled by the officers involved,” Corn continued.

Video provided by NewsNation Wednesday also captured portions of the argument and Lambert’s arrest in which Lambert can be heard clearly identifying himself as a reporter.

DeWine told reporters he did not see the arrest happen. He later was told that a reporter was asked to end his broadcast because “the volume of his reporting was perceived to be interfering with the event,” his office said in a statement.

When reporters asked DeWine about the arrest at the end of the news conference, he said it is common practice for journalists to report live from his events and insisted they have a right to do so.

“That person had a right to be reporting. They should have been allowed to report,” he said. “If they were in any way hampered from reporting, that certainly is wrong and it’s not anything that I approve of. In fact, I vehemently disapprove of it.”

Lambert told NewsNation after his release that he was “just trying to do his job.”

“And that’s what it’s all about — protecting the First Amendment and democracy and trying to help people get information,” he said.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Michelle Watson and Yon Pomrenze contributed to this report.

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