Friday, December 14, 2007

State police investigate arrest of Arkansas reporter

On Monday, Bill Lawson, a reporter for the Maumelle Monitor, set out to cover a house fire. While walking toward the fire with a camera, he was stopped by Arkansas State Police Trooper Thomas Weindruch (at left in a flash photo by Lawson) and handcuffed so that he faced away from the fire, the Monitor reports. The Monitor is a suburban Little Rock weekly with a circulation of 3,200.

"Bill Lawson, 59, a reporter and photographer for the Maumelle Monitor, said Trooper Tom Weindruch arrested him and placed him in handcuffs at the scene of a chimney fire on High Timber Drive about 7:50 p.m. Monday," John Lyons wrote. "Lawson said Weindruch kept him in handcuffs for about 30 minutes before releasing him. Weindruch issued Lawson a citation ordering him to appear in Sherwood District Court on Feb. 26 on the charge of obstructing governmental operations."

Lawson said that firefighter Perry Hopman saw him and told Weindruch that Lawson was not a problem. “I believe my exact words were, ‘He’s not bothering us. He’s no problem at all,’” said Hopman, who is the son-in-law of Dennis Byrd, publisher of the Maumelle Monitor and chief of the Arkansas News Bureau. (Read more)

The Monitor ran a first-person account from Lawson in its Wednesday edition. Arkansas State Police are investigating the arrest, reports Editor & Publisher. A conviction on the misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $100. (Read more)

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