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Reporter says officer detained and threatened him

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   TEXAS   ·   Newsgathering   ·   March 8, 2006

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   TEXAS   ·   Newsgathering   ·   March 8, 2006

Reporter says officer detained and threatened him

  • A Dallas newspaper reporter filed a complaint after an off-duty police officer threatened him with a shotgun while he was working in East Texas.

March 8, 2006  ·   A Dallas Morning News reporter was threatened with a shotgun and detained by an armed off-duty East Texas police officer late last week, the paper reported Saturday.

In a complaint filed Friday with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, reporter Dave Michaels said Gladewater Police Officer Bryan T. Naismith bumped his car, detained him and threatened him with a shotgun on a street in Naismith’s Upshur County neighborhood.

Michaels was in the area on Thursday reporting on a fatal shooting last summer involving Naismith. Earlier this year, a grand jury declined to indict Naismith in the shooting death of hit-and-run suspect Jonathan King, The Associated Press reported Monday.

According to the complaint, Michaels was threatened during the second of two visits to Naismith’s neighborhood. The first time Michaels visited, at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Naismith’s wife told him her husband was not home. She invited Michaels to return in half an hour, when she expected Naismith to be back.

Michaels said he returned to the neighborhood around 9 p.m. As he was driving, he noticed a truck make a U-turn and follow his car. After the truck bumped his car from behind, a man carrying a shotgun got out, yelled at Michaels and demanded to know his identity.

Michaels identified himself as a reporter, but the man continued yelling and cursing at him, the complaint said.

“He had a shotgun,” Michaels wrote in the complaint. “It had a very long barrel and he pointed it through my window, aimed at my shoulder or chest area. He ordered me to turn off the car and get out of the vehicle.”

As Michaels got out, he recognized the man as Naismith, dressed in civilian clothes.

Naismith acted upset and said that since the shooting last summer, “he had all manner of people trying or wanting to kill him,” Michaels wrote. The officer continued yelling and cursing with his weapon pointed at Michaels before saying, “I”m letting you know who the fuck I am. Get the fuck out of here.”

After leaving, Michaels was pulled over by another police officer. He told that officer what had happened and was referred to a sergeant and the Gladewater police chief. Both defended Naismith and told Michaels he had provoked the officer and put himself at risk by driving into the neighborhood at night, Michaels’ complaint said.

“At the end of my conversation with Chief [Jimmy] Davis and Sgt. [Freddie] Ellis, I felt they did not take the incident very seriously,” Michaels wrote. “The chief never apologized for what happened.”

On Friday, Michaels filed his complaint with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office.

Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, of which the Texas Rangers are a part, said the Rangers were asked to investigate the complaint. They declined to do so because the organization already is involved in Michaels’ reporting on King’s death, she said.

Mange said the Rangers advised the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office to contact the FBI or the state attorney general’s office about the complaint. A call to the sheriff’s office was not returned.

Michaels referred questions to the newspaper’s attorney, Joel Sharp, who declined comment.


© 2006 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press   ·   Return to: RCFP Home; News Page

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