A journalist was arrested on March 23 while asking for public records for a story he was reporting on in White Castle, Louisiana.
WBRZ TV reporter Chris Nakamoto was apprehended while he was in the town hall asking for information he had previously requested. The incident was recorded by his colleague.
It all began because of a story Nakamoto was pursuing on White Castle mayor Jermarr Williams and his mysterious salary raise.
We have the right to be here, I’ve put in a public records request.
The reporter said he had requested three public records but only received two. When he went back in with the video photographer, the town hall clerk went to the back of the building and called the police.
“I’m asking you to step out,”
said the officer to Nakamoto, although the town hall lobby is considered a public place.
“We have the right to be here, I’ve put in a public records request,” the reporter told the officer.
The officer then asked the cameraman to stop filming, to which he refused saying, “No. It’s a public building.”
The police then arrested Nakamoto for “remaining after being forbidden” and for causing a scene.
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“This is ridiculous,” said the reporter while the officer handcuffed him.
“This is what the residents of White Castle deal with,” Nakamoto said as he was being taken away.
Nakamoto isn’t the only one who has had trouble obtaining public records. Last year, residents of White Castle sued, claiming the mayor and the town clerk refused to produce public records they requested, according to WBRZ.
Our reporters are not going to be intimidated by public officials when we are getting you answers.
Nakamoto was released an hour after his arrest with a criminal charge for trespassing, and is set to appear in court on April 28. The public record he was inquiring for was released a day after he was arrested.
Meanwhile, the station’s news director defended Nakamoto.
“WBRZ stands by Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto,” said News Director Lee Polowczuk in a statement.
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“That’s first and foremost. The public expects this news organization to ask tough questions and hold the powerful accountable. Our reporters are not going to be intimidated by public officials when we are getting you answers. Station management is looking into all legal remedies regarding this incident,” he continued.