EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (NewsNation) — The Ohio Attorney General’s Office will handle the charges filed against NewsNation Correspondent Evan Lambert, whom officers arrested Wednesday in Ohio, where the reporter was delivering a live news report.
The Columbiana County Prosecutor’s Office in Ohio was initially handling the case but later turned it over to the attorney general after learning multiple police agencies were involved in the incident, according to a news release. The office’s special prosecution division will take over the matter.
Lambert was arrested Wednesday in East Palestine after delivering a live news report during NewsNation’s “Rush Hour.” Law enforcement told Lambert to stop because Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had started the news conference inside a local school gymnasium regarding a recent train derailment.
Officers from Columbiana County, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio National Guard were involved in the interaction with Lambert and his subsequent arrest, according to the release.
“We will work diligently with the OAG’s Office to ensure they have all necessary information, evidence, and materials required for a prompt review,” the Columbiana County Prosecutor’s Office said in its release, issued Friday afternoon.
DeWine, however, commented Friday on body camera footage from the incident and said local law enforcement has “primary jurisdiction.”
Here is the governor’s full statement from Friday:
While it does not show the full interaction between the two, the body cam video seems to be consistent with both Mr. Lambert’s and Major General Harris’ statements regarding their recollections of the incident. The video does not seem to contradict either person’s statements.
The video also does not show either the Ohio National Guard or the Ohio State Highway Patrol to be involved in the arrest of Mr. Lambert. Ohio does not have a state police. Local law enforcement has primary jurisdiction.
Major General Harris has led the Ohio National Guard as Adjutant General since 2019. His team helped with necessary evacuations, traffic control, and data modeling during the East Liverpool derailment aftermath. The Guard under Gen. Harris also played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic—operating vaccine clinics, assisting in nursing homes and hospitals, and providing crucial assistance to Ohio’s network of foodbanks. His seasoned leadership of the Ohio National Guard during this and other emergencies has helped protect the lives of Ohioans.
Body camera footage obtained by NewsNation shows the moments leading up to the arrest of the NewsNation reporter, including a part of an argument between a member of Ohio’s National Guard and Lambert.
The footage shows a man appearing to be Ohio’s commander of the National Guard, Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., arguing with the cameraman as Lambert is delivering the live report.
A state trooper walks behind the cameraman and signals for Lambert to stop talking. When Lambert stops, an argument then ensues between him and the man appearing to be Harris, who at one point shoves a finger in Lambert’s chest.
More police move in to break up the pair and attempt to kick Lambert out of the gymnasium. Lambert tells the officers he intends to stay for the ongoing news conference and says, “I am trying to listen, and he escalated with me.”
Sheriff’s deputies then attempt to forcibly remove Lambert from the gymnasium before tackling him in the foyer to arrest him.
The video, which does not have audio during some parts, comes from the body-worn camera of an officer from the Ohio State Highway Patrol
Law enforcement agencies in statements released Thursday claimed Lambert was disruptive, ignored requests to leave and resisted arrest.
Harris told law enforcement he asked Lambert to stop his live shot, Harris was “…convinced he was prepared to do harm to me,” and reacted by pushing Lambert, according to a statement to police acquired by NewsNation.
At a Pentagon briefing Friday, Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Lambert’s arrest was “not acceptable behavior.”
“The DOD absolutely supports a free and independent press. […] I can assure you,” Ryder said.
Friday, after the bodycam video was released, a National Guard spokesperson said “there is no change” to Harris’ statement.
Here is the full statement from Thursday:
During Governor DeWine’s press conference on February 8th, 2023, I heard very loud voices coming from the back of the gymnasium. Since most of the people in my immediate area were involved in the press conference as Public Information Officers or Subject Matters Experts, I decided I was the best person to notify the source of the disruption that the press conference had begun. Upon reaching the back of the gym, I saw a cameraman and reporter making what I assumed was a recorded message. Upon telling the reporter that the press conference had begun and that they were disrupting it, they appeared to become agitated and informed me that they were broadcasting live. After stepping out of the shot and appealing to them to be quiet down, I waited for them to finish their work. As I began to offer the assistance of my PIO team to find a more suitable location, the cameraman demanded, HEY, COME OVER HERE! Confused, I told him I would not come over there. I went back to conversing with the reporter who grew more agitated. He then became enraged. His eyes opened wide, he stared at me while very aggressively lurching at me. He screamed YOU GUYS ARE THE ONES WHO STRUNG THIS THING OUT! (I assumed he was referring to the 2-hour delay for the press conference). He is a much larger person than I am. At that point I was convinced he was prepared to do harm to me. 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. I immediately removed my hands when there was space between us – we were in contact for less than a second. At that time he immediately began yelling statements such as: ASSAULT! DID YOU SEE THAT, HE ASSAULTED ME! That was witnessed by several law enforcement officers. The officers attempted to persuade him to stop being disruptive. Now convinced that I was involved in a contrived event, I removed myself from the immediate area and walked back to the press conference. As I walked away I heard his voice continue to get louder and more hostile and the commotion at the rear of the gym continued. At the point I was no longer in a position to see what was happening.
NewsNation President of News Michael Corn issued a response to Harris’ statement Thursday:
“We believe that NewsNation’s Evan Lambert was simply doing his job yesterday—reporting from Governor DeWine’s press conference and updating viewers about the latest developments in the Ohio train derailment. 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.”
Lambert’s attorney, Frank Cassese, called the charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest “a futile attempt by law enforcement to justify their inexcusable interference with Mr. Lambert performing his duties as a journalist.”
“The claims made by Adjutant Major General Harris that Mr. Lambert was aggressive, and that Harris was ‘… convinced he was prepared to do harm to me’ are patently false,” Cassese said in a statement. “It is our position that the numerous videos of the incident, as recorded by bystanders, speak for themselves.”
Harris’ account of the situation ends before the arrest occurred, but a statement by East Palestine Police Chief J.C. Brown III continues on, stating authorities believed the live shot was loud and disruptive.
Sheriff Brian McLaughlin, Chief Deputy Jen Tucker and Lt. Caleb Wycoff reportedly asked Lambert to leave after the physical altercation between Lambert and Harris.
After multiple requests to leave, Tucker along with Det. Haueter (no first name given in the statement) attempted to escort Lambert out of the building when he resisted, police claim. Tucker and Haueter then took Lambert to the ground and put him in handcuffs.
Read the entire statement from Brown:
DeWine said he was “shocked” to learn a NewsNation reporter was arrested during his Wednesday news conference.
“I don’t want to see him in jail, I don’t want to see him prosecuted. But for me to say I know what happened would simply not be the truth,” DeWine said Thursday on “NewsNation Live.”
DeWine stopped short of calling for the charges to be dropped, but told NewsNation he didn’t authorize anything related to the incident and would not have if he was aware of it.
“The reporter had every right to broadcast,” DeWine told NewsNation. “No one should have said anything to the reporter about whether he was loud or not loud.”
DeWine, though, said he did not see the circumstances of the arrest. If he had, he said, “I would have told them to stop.”
“No one ever wants to see that,” DeWine said. “No one ever wants to see a reporter who is doing their job handcuffed and arrested. I don’t like it at all.”
“I’m very sorry that he was stopped from doing his job,” DeWine added.
Video captured by those at the news conference shows officers forcibly putting Lambert in handcuffs and walking him out of the gymnasium to a squad car. He was taken to the Columbiana County Jail and was released hours later.
As Lambert was being escorted from the gym to a squad car, he said, “It’s tough to do your job in America in 2023, but we’ll keep doing it.”
After the incident on Wednesday, NewsNation Washington Bureau Chief Mike Viqueira also issued a statement saying Lambert handled the situation with “true professionalism.” Here is the full statement:
“We are relieved that Evan Lambert is safe and headed home for a much-needed respite. We never want to lose sight of the fact that Evan was in Ohio to provide up to the minute reporting about a tragic train accident that has impacted thousands of lives. 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. On a positive front, I just spoke with Evan a short time ago and he was calm, cool, collected and already talking about his next assignment.”
The news conference DeWine was scheduled to speak at was originally set for 3 p.m. ET but was delayed by two hours. Lambert was scheduled to deliver his live shot at 5 p.m. when the news conference began.
NewsNation affiliate reporter Megan Lee was at the news conference and explained what she saw that led to Lambert’s arrest on “Morning in America.”
“It seems like there was some type of physical altercation toward Evan. And then, I remember hearing Evan say like, ‘this is assault,’ or something. Honestly, I was in so much shock that they were trying to not let him do his job — it was shocking to me,” Lee said.
The photographer working with Lambert, Preston Swigart, said law enforcement told Lambert to stop talking.
“From their standpoint, he didn’t obey orders when he was told to stop talking,” 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.”