|News Media Update||NORTH CAROLINA||Newsgathering|
Hearing postponed for reporter arrested at homicide scene
- Police arrested a police reporter in North Carolina after he refused to leave a homicide scene, despite being asked several times by officers to step back.
March 11, 2004 — A district court judge issued a continuance yesterday postponing the hearing of a police reporter who was arrested in Fayetteville, N.C., last week for resisting an officer after allegedly disobeying police orders to leave the scene of a homicide investigation.
Robert Boyer, a police reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, was asked three or four times by Sgt. W.C. Owen to move away from a home in Haymount, N.C., where a body was found March 3, the Observer reported the following day.
Fayetteville Police Chief Tom McCarthy said officers had placed yellow tape around the front of the house to initially mark the crime scene, but soon realized the scene needed to be expanded. Police cars were then used to block traffic at the end of the street, he said. The body was found at around 1:30 a.m.
According to McCarthy, Owen saw the blockade but continued past the cars and into the expanding crime scene, ignoring the directive of an officer restricting traffic.
Michael Adams, assistant managing editor of the Observer, said Boyer was just doing his job.
“We support him for working hard to get information,” Adams said. “We regret that it came down to him being arrested.”
According to McCarthy, Boyer was standing a few feet from tire marks that police thought may have been made by a getaway car. Owen asked Boyer to leave several times, but Boyer maintained that he would not leave unless he was arrested, McCarthy said.
“Our guys didn’t have much of a choice,” McCarthy said. “He blatantly didn’t move back to where the cars were.”
“I respect crime scenes,” Boyer told the Observer in the March 4 article. “The last thing in the world I want to do is walk through or otherwise muck up a crime scene. I want officers to do their jobs, but I want to do mine.”
McCarthy said crime scenes, especially homicide scenes, often expand at the discretion of the officer in charge, and that reporters should obey the orders of police officers or expect to be arrested.
“I don’t even go into homicide crime scenes,” McCarthy said. “Unless you are investigating the crime, all you can do is contaminate it.”
Boyer was taken to the Cumberland County Detention Center, where he was charged and released. Resisting an officer is a misdemeanor offense. Boyer will next appear in court April 14.
© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press